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High School Students Protest Gas Prices, Forgo Cars

by Joshua Liberles on June 5, 2008

HighSchoolWALKS01 High School Students Protest Gas Prices, Forgo Cars
High school students in Long Island, New York and in Alabama separately came to the same conclusion: they were upset about the rising gas prices and wanted to do something about it. In-class discussions about civil disobedience served as the impetus in both cases, inspiring the students to take a stand.

At Sayville High School in New York, senior Daniel Calise encouraged hundreds of students and faculty to leave their cars at home yesterday and walk, bike or skateboard to school instead. Teachers and administrators showed their support by carpooling.

A steady rain didn’t dampen the students’ spirits. 80 percent of the students took part in the protest and went car-free for the day.

The motivation was clearly economic. As Calise told Newsday, "I don’t believe it’s right for the gas companies to be charging too much and making billions of dollars on it."

Chris Monitto’s economic concerns were more personal. He told Newsday that he works a minimum wage job 25 hours per week to keep his car topped off. "It gets really hard to juggle work and homework," he said. "It’s really hard for a 17-year-old to have that much stress on them."

Brooks High School students in Killen, Alabama extended their protest for their entire last week of school, which ended May 29th. Students wondered if they could help to lower gas prices by staying car-free and decreasing demand for gasoline. At least they wouldn’t continue to be part of the problem.

The main group of protesters met at the Center Star Baptist Church, 2 ½ miles from their school along the busy US 72. Other students made their treks alone, either on bike or by foot.

One major difference between this initiative and the Long Island protest: the administration did nothing to encourage the students at Brooks. US 72, like many US roads, is built for solo ventures by auto. There’s no sidewalk or any type of accommodation for pedestrians. In fact, Killen police have been checking on the students during their marches to and from school to help ensure their safety.

Principal Dale Mathis said he respected the students’ right to protest, but told the Times Daily that he wished they’d chosen something safer like riding the bus, carpooling, or writing congressmen.

What remains to be seen is whether the actions will turn out to be a one-time activity or if they could lead to more permanent changes. Maybe Brooks High administrators will realize how absurd it is that students cannot safely walk to school and must rely on car transport. The students themselves got their first taste of a carectomy – let’s hope they come back for more and can encourage their peers and parents to do the same.

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