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Student Protest In 1934

By J.N. Cheney


Even the smallest of towns can see sparks of radicalism.


Solidarity movements exist in several forms, from honoring the picket lines of striking workers to anti-war protests in solidarity with the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.


Student movements all throughout history have been characterized as displays of both solidarity and resistance, acting against wars, egregious abuses of power, and other entities characterized as unjust and disagreeable.


In the village of West Winfield, anything in the news focusing on students primarily relates to school sports, homecoming weekend, graduation, and similar events.


In the mid-1930s though, students from the small village engaged in an uncharacteristic act of radical solidarity with their fellow schoolmates.


In late 1934, two students were barred from attending school functions and were soon after expelled from West Winfield Central High School.


Their expulsion came after they still attended a senior dance after their activities privileges were suspended.


What was the initial offense that led to these students being hit with disciplinary measures?


They walked on the grass on school grounds after sod had been laid down.


They didn’t maliciously try to tear up the lawn with a vehicle or dig it up in some other way, they simply walked on the grass.


Annoying? Perhaps yes.


An act deserving of an indefinite suspension from extracurricular activities and eventual total expulsion? No.


Rather than turn away the students when they arrived at the dance, they were still able to attend and then were informed of their expulsion from the school the following Monday when they reported for classes.


That not a single chaperone did anything to prevent them attending displays either a lack of care on the part of those overseeing the function, or a lack of communication from the principal to his faculty.


Seeing their peers expelled for such a minor offense didn’t sit well with the student body. In response, students ranging from 7th graders to seniors initiated a walkout the very same day that the expulsion took place.


Students left the school in droves. A spur-of-the- moment, unplanned action, between 100 and 200 students (though some papers cited numbers even higher than 200) marched through the streets of West Winfield in defiance of their principal’s actions as a show of solidarity with their wrongly removed schoolmates. ...

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The full story is in this week's edition of the newspaper. 

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