Teacher’s choice: leave or remain?

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When teachers at Lincoln discovered on Sept. 7 that students were leading a walkout, they faced a dilemma.

Leave or remain?

Had they gone, they knew students would be left without classes to attend. They could have also been reprimanded by administrative officials or parents for abandoning the school.

On the other hand, if they remained, students would deluge the downtown streets unescorted.

It all depended on the individual.

One teacher who joined the students during the walkout was Spanish teacher Saneun McHaley-Foley.

“We can’t have hundred and hundreds of our students walking around the streets without [teachers]. It wouldn’t be safe– it wouldn’t be, in my opinion, the right choice to leave that many kids unattended in the streets,” said McHaley-Foley.

Walkout advocate senior Michael Ioffe said that “the teachers at Lincoln have been overwhelmingly supportive.” He added that “very few” were unsupportive of the “rationale behind” the cause.

Some teachers gave Ioffe feedback. According to the senior, he was advised to be more organized.

“Given that we had 12 hours to plan this, it was pretty good work,” Ioffe said.

Government teacher David Bailey agreed with that assessment. He said that “the organizers of the walkout did an exceptional job.”

Bailey added, however, that not everyone who participated did so to support the stated purpose of the walkout. There was a “herd mentality,” he noted.

Bailey said the walkout may have contributed to a negative view of Lincoln.

“It’s the perception of rich, white kids being able to do whatever they want,” Bailey said. “We should never feed into that image.”

Bailey expressed dissatisfaction that only half of his students attended class during the protest. He marked walkout participants absent and unexcused.

Bailey said that protesters shouldn’t “alienate the very people whose votes you want” by disrupting work across the city.

He finds that when students congested Pioneer Square, even though in reality they were supposed to be in school, the students reduced their own credibility.

McHaley-Foley disagrees.  She said that the walkout “helped clarify for kids what their rights are and what kind of actions they can take.”

She added that she hopes the board will take the walkout into account next time “they make decisions that are affecting how kids are learning.”

Ethnic Studies teacher Chris Buehler saw the demonstration as “democracy in action.” He says that other schools “should see Lincoln as an incubator for activism-against systematic disinvestment in public education.”

Despite holding similar positions, teachers offered different outlooks on the walkout and how to address it.