How my school embraced student protesters after Trump’s win

By Randall Duval, for Chalkbeat 

Randall Duval is a 12th-grade language arts teacher and senior content leader at Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello High School. On Wednesday morning, students from Martin Luther King Jr. Early College in Denver walked out of class in protest and headed to Duval’s school in Montbello, a part of the city has been the focus of some of the school district’s most aggressive reform efforts.

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As an educator who serves primarily Hispanic, black and immigrant students, the result of this presidential election was hard to bear.

On Wednesday morning, my students were in pain, and so were my colleagues. Several teachers, disappointed and disillusioned, were in tears.

It became clear that the day would not be spent on “traditional” instruction. Students were angry, afraid and dealing with feelings of rejection. Our principal asked teachers to offer their classrooms as safe places for students to express their feelings. Students gravitated to classrooms and places in the building where they felt they would be heard.

As this was happening at our school, students in a school about three miles away walked out of their classrooms and walked all the way to our school, which serves as a center of the neighboring community. We guided the students into our auditorium where they had an impromptu rally to affirm one another. It was positive and democratic in its expression.

A young man who appeared to be the leader of the march said a young woman inspired him to organize the walk out. He gave her the microphone, and as she began speaking some of our students who had been in the halls found seats in the auditorium and listened intently. She was powerful in her expression and deliberate in her diction, despite the impromptu nature of the march.

I was proud.

After she spoke, the young man who had led the march told the students to go back to their schools and classrooms. They filed out as quickly as they came.

For the rest of the day, I had conversations with students in classrooms and hallways. I started asking the question, “What now?”

“We have to organize,” one said.

“We have to educate our people,” another said.

“We have to go door to door,” yet another said.

We continued to talk about what organizing and educating looks like. They nodded their heads as they wiped away their tears. They looked into each other’s eyes, hugged each other, hugged me, and that was it.

This was the story throughout our building. I was proud to be a part of it.

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Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.