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Saturday School for Immigration Protesters

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Here in the U.S., students may play a big role in Monday's protest. Thousands of school kids skipped class earlier this spring to join pro-immigrant demonstrations. In Los Angeles, many of those students are now being punished with detention and Saturday school.

Youth Radio's Jennifer Obakhume attends Inglewood High School, where student protests have prompted a serious of lockdowns. And she his this report.

JENNIFER OBAKHUME reporting:

At my school, Inglewood High, plenty of students took advantage of the first day of protest and walked off campus saying, Ooh, a day off. But a few of them did organize to go to Los Angeles City Hall. As soon as they stepped foot outside school, the doors were shut and Inglewood High was on lockdown.

Unidentified Woman: We are having a tardy sweep. Students, let's make sure we get to class on time. Teachers, at the sound of the tardy bell, please make sure your doors are locked.

OBAKHUME: Believe me, no one was going anywhere for any reason. The students who did leave campus were caught on cameras planted around the school. They were given detention or even expelled. Since then, we've had many days of lockdowns, which tortures everyone, including my friend Elsa Silva(ph).

Ms. ELSA SILVA (Student, Inglewood High School): It makes us feel like we're in jail. We're not criminals. We're just students, and they should treat us as such.

OBAKHUME: Senior Rosena Castillon(ph) says students did participate on the first day of the walkout.

Ms. ROSENA CASTILLON (Student, Inglewood High School): But after that we kind of like settled down. And we followed school regulations, and they still had us on lockdown. So I think that was a little unfair for us.

OBAKHUME: So, but why do you think that even though that was just that one day, they still have had us on lockdown since?

Ms. CASTILLON: I just think that they were concerned about students leaving school, and accidents that could happen outside of school.

OBAKHUME: Safety concerns make even sympathetic teachers play law enforcers. Teacher Mr. Veramontez(ph) was once a young activist himself.

Mr. VERAMONTEZ (Teacher, Inglewood High School): So there's a part of me that, yeah, I remember what it was like to be young. I walked out too. I staged protests too when I was young. But at the same time, I am responsible for the safety, for the security, for the well-being, and the -- are there consequences? Yeah, there's consequences. In this case, it's Saturday school. And in my opinion, Saturday school is a small price to pay. A very small price to pay.

OBAKHUME: But at my high school, our price for protest was a lot higher. Why lockdown? Here's what my pre-calculus teacher, Mr. Payne(ph), thinks.

Mr. PAYNE (Teacher, Inglewood High School): Was it absolutely necessary? Probably not, but you go back to the old saying, you know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

OBAKHUME: My government teacher, Ms. Zolar(ph), who encourages activism, still says true change begins in the classroom.

Ms. ZOLAR (Teacher, Inglewood High School): As far as the students walking out, the only way to liberation is through education. And if they're here, if their parents brought them here, or had them here, obviously they wanted better for them. And not getting your education is not going to be an embetterment of the lifestyle that their parents brought them here for.

OBAKHUME: That all makes sense. But it's still funny to hear adults who walked out of school in their day, like the Mayor of Los Angeles, trying to convince students not to protest. I have to admit, a lot of the students at my school don't have a firm grasp of the issues. But that doesn't discourage them from wanting to be active and to learn.

For NPR News, I'm Jennifer Obakhume.

BRAND: And that story was produced by Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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