MULTIMEDIA: Manual students organize walkout in protest of potential Roe v. Wade overturn

Cassidy Overberg

By RedEye Staff, duPont Manual High School

UPDATE 4:34 PM: Students who teachers marked down as having participated in the walkout will be required to attend a non-punitive debriefing to discuss the implications of lost instructional time and JCPS’s neutrality to the issue. Administration will not issue referrals or punitive action.

Today at noon, hundreds of Manual students gathered in front of the school building in an organized walkout to protest the potential overturn of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.

Roe v. Wade has been the Supreme Court’s established precedent for abortion rights for nearly 50 years and has been reaffirmed by the Court several times since its inception.

A draft opinion penned by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito leaked on May 3, revealing the Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This would result in the country reverting to a pre-Roe state, where each state would decide whether or not to permit abortion. Kentucky has a “trigger ban” that would immediately make abortion illegal in the state if the opinion becomes official.

Instagram account @dmhs.4.abortion.rights posted a graphic on their page the day prior which revealed the plan for the walkout.

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A post shared by @dmhs.4.abortion.rights

The Manual administrators became aware of the planned protest and sent a mass email to all teachers around 11:30 a.m. today (Thursday), instructing them to list the name of each student who walked out in a spreadsheet.

The email clarified that, while JCPS cannot support a walkout, students who choose to participate in the walkout should gather in specific, designated areas (in front of the school if they had class at the main Manual or the field hockey turf if they had a class at the YPAS building) in order to monitor the situation and ensure student safety.

Manual was not the only school in JCPS that organized a walkout, with multiple high schools such as Atherton and Ballard High Schools also seeing student protests.

Atherton students gather around posters protesting the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade. Photo by Maerose Monin. (Maerose Monin)

Many Manual students expressed their frustration with the actions of the Supreme Court. “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that nine old farts get to decide bodily autonomy for the entire nation. So I just think it’s absolutely ridiculous that they have the ability to take that away, into the hands of a lot of small-minded men, essentially,” Shelby Johnson (9, VA) said.

Another student agreed with Johnson: “I’m out here today because women’s bodies are their own bodies. They have their own rights. For a corrupt society, America is falling down and we need to pick it back up,” May Lukyanchuk (10, MST) stated.

One student commented on the diversity of the crowd in front of the school. “I think that it’s important, regardless of the repercussions, to stand for what you believe in. It’s also really awesome seeing male and female representation, as we just saw. I am afraid, and I think it’s awful that we’re still stipulating over this [abortion rights], it really shouldn’t be a question,” Arthi Sundar (12, MST) said.

Some students were reluctant to participate in the walkout because of potential consequences from administration. “I was worried someone would give me a referral for no reason. My class is pretty small; it would be easy for them to catch us if we went out,” Danny Tran (12, MST).

“I think people were scared of getting referrals and having it go on their academic record,” Tanushree Senthil Kumar (12, MST) said. “Plus, people were taking AP exams and couldn’t go because of that.”

One student shared his confusion about whether or not administrators would issue referrals for walking out. “I heard a lot of yes and a lot of no,” Tran said.

Another student believes the protest would have been larger if not for potential consequences. “Because of the threat of referrals, the protest wasn’t as effective as it could’ve been,” Camella Korner (12, MST) said.

Mr. Holman (Social Studies) was one teacher present at the walkout. “I love when students are active. One of the things we talk about in Government and Politics is that your citizenship extends way past voting, and one of the most American things you can do is stand up for the things you believe in,” he said.

Students assembled outside the school from noon until 12:15 p.m., when principal Dr. Newman addressed the crowd.

“We now have to recommit resources back into running school, and so I want to ask you nicely: cheer as we start heading back in, as loud as you can, get the voice out, and then we have got to go back to class, because we have to continue on,” the principal said.

After the announcement from Principal Newman, students continued to chant as they walked back into the building and returned to class.

This story was originally published on Manual RedEye on May 5, 2022.