Despite appreciation for students demonstrating against furloughs and budget cuts, teachers and administrators at Middle River Middle School cut short a protest by 50 boys and girls who slipped out of class yesterday.
The Baltimore County students, most of whom said they had the support and encouragement of parents, left the building shortly after 10 a.m. to stage a demonstration just before third period began.
They displayed signs and chanted "no furloughs" for media members who had been notified of the event by parents and students.
"We should be able to have our teachers here to teach us," said eighth-grader Heather Shook, referring to the classroom time she will miss on days when teachers are furloughed. The budget cuts are "hurting us, and they're hurting our education."
A few parents stood outside the school, and at least one joined the demonstration, handing homemade anti-furlough signs to students. "These kids have to be heard; this is their future," said Ray Thomas, whose 13-year-old stepdaughter, Nichole Keeler, is eighth-grader at Middle River. "Listen to what they're saying -- they want to be in school."
But within five minutes, Principal Brian Gonzalez ushered the disgruntled students back into the building.
On Friday he had told them they were free to organize an event before or after school.
"Although they may be well-intentioned, they must honor our request that [demonstrations] not be done during school time," he said.
Mr. Gonzalez added that he understood the students' concerns. He said that the countywide work-to-rule job action by teachers, which was launched earlier this month to bring public attention to the fiscal problems the school system faces, has "dramatically altered our student activities."
For example, the school usually runs a late bus to take home students who participate in after-school activities.
Mr. Gonzalez said the bus has been canceled because teachers no longer volunteer their time for such activities.
"It's upset our student body, and it's painful for our teachers," he added.
Parents who supported their children's participation in the demonstration "haven't helped us," he said.
The best way for students to help is "to continue to do their best in the classrooms."