Shawnee Mission School District high schoolers walked out of class on Friday to protest the board of education’s vote Thursday to approve a three-year unilateral contract for teachers.
At SM East, student organizers began posting signs throughout the school early Friday promoting a walk out on the football practice field at 11 a.m. When the hour came, the doors on the west side of the building opened and out poured a steady stream of several hundred students, many carrying hand-made signs with message in support of the district’s teachers. They congregated at the base of a hill on the field and held a rally, at which point they chanted slogans lambasting the board and Superintendent Mike Fulton.
A smaller, but significant, group of students walked out of SM Northwest Friday morning as well. Members of the SM North community have reported on social media there was a walkout at that school, too.
At SM East, students reported that they had been told by administrators that they would not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities this weekend if they took part in the walkout. Shawnee Mission Chief Communications Officer David Smith said Friday afternoon that students who left the building for the protest would receive an unexcused absence.
‘We think that teachers deserve more’
SM East students made several calls to action, asking their classmates to continue protesting at future school board meetings and send a message to the board of education.
“We want to keep talking, keep protesting, make sure our teachers are getting fairly treated, because right now they’re working more hours than every other school district in Kansas,” said Katherine Peterson, an SM East senior who spoke at a recent board meeting. “They’re getting underpaid, and they’re being forced into a three-year contract that’s going to make sure that they’re not going to be able to talk about for another three years.”
Peterson said she and her classmates are concerned the three-year contract will negatively impact students’ education as well.
“Our teachers are inspiring and amazing, and they’re the people who are shaping my future,” Peterson said. “I just think it’s so unfair how they’re not only sacrificing our teachers’ pay and their personal suffering is happening, but they’re affecting us students. If they’re overworked or underpaid, we’re not getting the education that we need.”
Christian Klobe, an SM East freshmen, said he and his classmates walked out to show support for their teachers and appreciation for “the hard work they do all year round.”
“We think that teachers deserve more than what they get paid for,” Klobe said. “A lot of teachers, they don’t get appreciated enough for what they do.”
Alyssa Gardner, another SM East senior, said she’s protesting to show support for teachers who helped her when she was a transfer student.
“They definitely try their hardest to give us individual attention,” Gardner said. “I know for a fact some of them stay till 7 or 8 o’clock at night to finish doing their workload that has been piled onto them.”
The protest lasted about half an hour because students had to return to classes.
“We have classes, but we try to do our best to support our teachers,” Gardner said. “It’s a family, and we try and stick up for each other.”
Jay Senter contributed to this report.