ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Students in the Forest Hills School District walked out of class Wednesday to protest the cancellation of Turpin High School's diversity day.
Roughly 350 students walked out of Turpin High School at 9:52 a.m. Wednesday in response to the cancellation. The students carried signs and chanted mantras like "do better Forest Hills" before heading back into class about 10 minutes after the walkout started.
The students walked to the nearby Heritage Unitarian Universalist Church, which is on Newtown Road.
"As a minority student, (the cancellation) really hit hard. It's like really hard to like feel and understand and stuff," said Kennan Alcalde, Turpin High School senior. "What it does is it brings people together and you get an insight about how other students learn and how other students days are and like what they're thinking behind the scenes and not what they just show. It's more of a behind-the-scenes thing."
To support the Turpin students, Anderson High School also held a walkout at 10:25 a.m. onto the school's football field. In a statement, the district said it was aware of student demonstrations planned.
"The district recognizes and respects the rights of its students to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights to assemble peaceably and to express ideas and opinions," the statement says. "The first priority for FHSD, at all times, is to provide a safe and secure learning environment for every student and we will continue with our commitment to maintain a high level of safety for students while on campus."
After both walkouts, students will be holding their own student-led diversity day Wednesday afternoon. Claire Mengel, a senior who helped plan the school-led event, said the students decided the school needed to have a diversity day no matter the board's decision. Later this week, Mengel will speak to Congress as part of a hearing on free speech.
The school board first postponed the event so parents could sign permission slips after reviewing the agenda and speakers. Board members then voted in a special meeting to put the event on hold, deciding it would no longer happen during school hours or use school resources. Board member Leslie Rasmussen refused to vote, accusing fellow members of making the day "political."
“In my view, the board's positions exist to help facilitate the education of the kids and what the kids are asking for, so the kids are saying what they want, the board is not listening to them, which unfortunately means that we have to step up and do the role of leading all of this," Mengel said.
To further emphasize their point, students and community members spoke during public comment at the Forest Hills School District Board Meeting.
"I'm inspired by your thoughtful and respectful approach and I respect you students on how you handled yourself today," Superintendent Scot Prebles said in the meeting.
Mengel will go to Washington, D.C. Thursday to share their experience with Congress at a hearing focused on classroom censorship. Diversity day, an optional event for juniors and seniors that includes activities and guest speakers, has existed for multiple years.
Turpin's diversity day will not happen this year, event canceled after backlash from school board
'They have made this political': Students, parents protest Forest Hills BOE's vote against Diversity Day