By Daniel Randall
After a tremendous wave of walkouts and students strikes up and down the country, action by school students has begun to die down. This does not mean young people have stopped caring about the issue or become apathetic. Far from it!
Local demos have been taking place all over Britain, as well as an enormous national demo on 22 March with another national demo planned for 12 April. All of these demos have been attracting vast numbers of young people.
It is our democratic right to protest against war, and yet some students have faced heavy disciplinary action against them for walking out, demonstrating, or even speaking out against the war.
In early March, two pupils were suspended from a school in Otley,Yorkshire for making speeches in favour of a walkout.
Sachin Sharma, 16, said he had simply spoken up against the potential war in the only way he could: "The majority of our school does not have democratic rights. They have no means to express themselves, and they don't have a voice in real terms. The only way we can, as minors, express ourselves is through demonstration."
Sachin is right - the rights of young people are woefully thin. No union exists to represent us. We are denied the vote. Our schools are gripped by New Labour's insane, bureaucratic education policies - test them till their pips squeek - and we have no say in what goes on in school. The only way we can make our voices heard is by taking to the streets and demonstrating.
Sachin's school said the pupils were suspended because they had incited others to stage a walkout, breaking health and safety rules and the school's behavioural policy. However, it's not all bad news. Sam, another Yorkshire student, says that the local National Union of Teachers branch has "been very supportive." He urged anti-war students to "find out where the local NUT branches are and ask for their support."
Students have faced disciplinary action in schools right across Britain. In Brighton, six students from the Blatchington Mill School were suspended for participating in the walkouts on 7 March. When local, pro-war MP Ivor Caplin visited the school, students organised a rally and occupation to protest against the suspensions. One student said "we're protesting against the notion of democracy that schools promote. Democracy is about putting a cross on a ballot paper every five years and doing nothing in between. And democracy is about castigating anti-war protestors as "juvenile delinquents" while upholding the rights of corrupt and murderous warmongers.
In Cornwall, twenty students were suspended for walking out of school to join a protest in Penzance. In Leicester, several students were arrested during a demonstration in the city on 7 March. The charges against them were later dropped, but protesters have encountered hostility from the police all over the nation and many protesters have been arrested.
It is entirely wrong for school students to face disciplinary action from their schools as students, or be arrested by the police. When George Bush and Tony Blair are engaged in a bloody, military conflict in Iraq, and have, for years, denied the Iraqi people fresh water, health-care and education through sanctions, it's shocking that it's school student protestors who are counted as criminals.
* To protest against the suspension of student dissidents in Yorkshire and Brighton, write to their schools.
Six students suspended at
Blatchington Mill School:
Nevill Avenue, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 7BW. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two students suspended at Otley Prince Henry's Grammar School: Farnley Lane, Otley West Yorkshire, LS21 2BB
* For further information about student activities against the war and how you can support and defend protestors, visit the Student Stop the War website.