About 100 students at a Nashville charter school organized a walkout Wednesday to protest the policies of President Donald Trump, less than two miles from the hall where the president was scheduled to speak later in the day.
Students at LEAD Academy High School stood along Lafayette Street, a busy thoroughfare into downtown Nashville. Some waved flags of their native countries to declare their pride about being immigrants. Others held signs supporting immigration rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. Several teachers accompanied the students to ensure their safety near the traffic.
Students were most motivated by Trump’s January executive order, which barred entrance into the United States by immigrants and refugees from seven countries. LEAD serves many students who are immigrants or have family members who immigrated to the United States.
“It’s a very diverse school, and the majority of our students feel like they are very affected by the ban,” said senior Malik Phipps. “We just want to show our school loves each other.”
During his first major policy address outside of Washington, D.C., Trump is expected to talk about school choice, as well as his proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Senior Jerchelle Chaney, who was leading protest chants, wasn’t familiar with Trump’s school choice agenda, but had some advice for his administration.
“I hope that whatever he chooses (to do with education) is smarter than the immigration ban,” Chaney said. “I hope it has a positive impact on us, and I hope that he consults with us before he makes an executive decision.”
Though they were skipping class, several students said protesting was an educational experience.
“We’re exercising our first amendment rights,” sophomore Chandler Davis said. “If you don’t like something, you’ve got the power to change it, so that’s what we’re doing.”
The school’s charter operator later issued a statement on the protest. “While LEAD Public Schools does not make political statements, we respect the rights of our students to find their voice through exercising their First Amendment rights,” a spokesman wrote. “And we are proud of our students for engaging in a peaceful and non-violent protest as future leaders of our city and country. In this instance, we worked with our students to ensure that the protest was peaceful and the safety of all was upheld. Thank you to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department for working with us during the duration of the protest.”