Student-led protest alters day’s schedule


Students participate in sit-in protest in the lower student center. 75-100 students participated and shared their concerns with administration.

Johnny Marshall, Editor

On September 10, approximately 75 to 100 students gathered in the lower student center to participate in a sit-in protest about issues within the school. In the beginning, protesters peacefully sat on the steps in front of the auditorium. For most of the demonstration, administrators tried to keep the students downstairs but still allowed them to voice their opinions.

Principal Evans Branigan III explained the events of the week in an interview with NCHSLive!

At the beginning of the event, there were about 15 to 20 students gathered along the steps in the lower student center. Of these students, about three or four of them had signs, according to Branigan. 

“The decision was made to let them stay there until the bell rang,” Branigan said.

Some of the signs students held had messages written on them such as “we are not safe,” “hear us” and “we deserve to feel safe.” 

As the protest continued, more students began to join in, whether they had a purpose or not. As the time neared 7:20 a.m., some students broke off and went to class, while others remained in the student center. By 7:30 a.m., about 75 to 100 students had accumulated. 

“Unfortunately, the people who started sitting down with them weren’t aware of what they were upset about or what they were protesting or what they didn’t feel safe about,” Branigan said.

Students also chanted in unison, “We’re not safe!” 

“I just don’t feel like I’m safe… if we stick together, all of us as a group, we’re going to be able to get our point across,” sophomore Chase Allen said. 

As the protest continued without a foreseeable nearing end, administrators decided to hold students in their first period classes. Since the mass of the protest was obstructing the student center (now the main route of transportation from the east to west sides of the building), administrators decided that it would be wise to not have students trying to travel from first to second period in the midst of an increasingly disorganized protest.

Branigan and Superintendent Nikki Woodson decided to bring a group of students who claimed to be representatives of the demonstration into the office. These students brought up a variety of concerns, including staffing, representation, gender identity issues and how students are being treated based upon both race and gender.

“There was one young lady who did a great job explaining how we have to put something in place with the perception of minority students aggressively fighting,” Branigan said.

After meeting with Principal Branigan, the students were informed about the various ways they could present concerns and suggestions without inadvertently disrupting the learning of essentially 3,600 other students.

“There is a large meeting that takes place where the student council represents the student voice, which they weren’t aware of and they were surprised about that,” said Branigan. Student Council has an everyday audience with Assistant Principal Marla Palacios to present potential concerns involving the student body. 

When the students were finished meeting with Principal Branigan, the protest began to dissipate and the school day was going to continue on a two-hour-delay schedule, with period two beginning at 9:54 a.m. 

However, before the demonstration finally dissipated, a group of students, who did not embody the main point of the protest, began to run through the hallways, yelling, stomping, and pounding on classroom doors. Although this was intended to be a peaceful and negotiable demonstration, these students upstairs disrupted the learning environment of students elsewhere in the school. Once that group of protesters was under control, the day continued on the established two-hour delay schedule. 

Branigan says students are encouraged to share concerns and thoughts about the school through various ways such as through Student Council members, the anonymous tip line, and talking to a counselor, dean or another administrator. 

Sophomore Areina Sears took the next weekend to reflect on her presence at the protest. 

“They need to have security when you first walk in the doors to check that you don’t have guns or knives,” Sears said.