Hundreds of students gathered in the Woodside High School central quad at mid-morning Thursday and stayed out of classes to air opinions on the election of Donald Trump as president.
What began as an emotional outpouring evolved into a "unity thing," a student said.
The protest started with the campus brunch at 10:30 a.m. when a group of the school's Latino and students of other races marched through campus with flags and signs, Woodside High student Ethan Steinmetz told the Almanac.
The march was nonviolent, and soon, what appeared to be the whole school had gathered in the central quad, he said. After the short brunch period, few left the quad to return to class. Deven Hills, a 12th grader, said he was one of the few to go back to class because he had to finish his math homework.
Many teachers were out of their classrooms offering assistance and supervision, Ethan said.
The protest occurred the day after an assault on a Woodside High student who said she was attacked because of her support of Mr. Trump.
The tone shifted through the protest, which continued for about two and a half hours, Ethan said. Initially, comments began with Latino and Mexican students voicing their opinions, "just feeling a sense of tragedy," he said. The principal came out and all students who wished to speak were invited to wait in line for their turn at the microphone. Teachers also spoke, he said.
Watch this video to hear what two Spanish teachers told their students.
The protest started as more of an emotional outpouring of anti-Trump sentiment, but turned "into a unity thing," he said. "It was pretty cool to see, actually."
According to Ethan, one of the more memorable quotes from a student at the protest-turned-unity rally was, "We are not the generation of tomorrow. We are the generation of today."
In an email message to the school community on Thursday, Principal Diane Burbank said she decided to excuse the protesting students from their fourth-period classes.
"We recognized students' right to free speech and the need to practice it, too," she said. "We challenged students that it was easy to be respectful when you agreed with a position, but that it was harder to be respectful when you disagreed, and that all opinions were welcomed at the microphone." (School staff had set up a sound system in the quad.)
"One student spoke about unity and different pathways to unity," Ms. Burbank said. "We added that every voter also deserved inclusion in that pathway to unity. It was a remarkable peaceful protest."
The protest continued through lunch – "an outdoor classroom in the quad" and "a teachable moment," Ms. Burbank called it – but students were expected to return to their classrooms for the sixth period. "I challenged them that the effective way to protest was to become educated and to make a difference by earning their diplomas," she said.
News media were barred from the campus, and deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office guarded the entrance.
About 30 students who "peacefully" remained in the quad after the start of the sixth period will be issued unexcused absences as a result, Ms. Burbank said, adding that further protests will also result in unexcused absences.
The school district administration is investigating the circumstances of the assault, Superintendent Jim Lianides of the Sequoia Union High School District said, adding that "appropriate disciplinary action has been taken."