At least 100 angry students sat outside Cockeysville Middle School yesterday and refused to attend classes to protest budget cuts and a teachers' work-to-rule action that have forced the cancellation or rescheduling of two spring events.
After the students stayed outside at the beginning of the school day about 8 a.m., it took Principal Julie K. Szymaszek, administrators and parents more than an hour to persuade the youngsters to enter the building, located in the 10400 block of Greenside Drive.
It was only after Mrs. Szymaszek agreed to an immediate meeting with students, with the media attending,that the youngsters filed into the school's cafeteria.
Shouting to be heard over one another, the students expressed outrage at increasing class sizes and failing student-teacher relationships.
"Next year, we're going to be in classes with 40 or more students in them," said 13-year-old Kristy Manning. "We don't have enough books for the students in our classes now."
"State money should be going to schools, not to a stadium that's even smaller than Memorial Stadium," said 12-year-old Kena Hodges.
"People say children are the future -- what kind of a future are we going to have if we have no education?" asked 13-year-old Jennifer Schaffer.
This was the second student protest in Baltimore County this week in which students skipped class in an effort to send a message to administrators and politicians.
On Monday at Middle River Middle School, some 50 boys and girls slipped out of the building for a brief demonstration before being ushered back to their classrooms.
Last Friday, students from Parkville High School took advantage of a scheduled half-day of school to demonstrate outside the old courthouse in Towson, after being refused admission to the building to visit County Executive Roger B. Hayden.
Both of the middle-school protests resulted in contact between students and representatives from Mr. Hayden's office.
Carol Hirschberg, the executive's press aide, spoke with Middle River students by phone earlier this week. Another Hayden aide, Nicholas C. Spinnato, met with 21 student representatives from Cockeysville yesterday following the sit-out.
During the hastily called assembly just after the protest,Cockeysville students said a Wednesday rumor about a schoolwide walkoutprompted administrators to enlist several county police officers to help teachers keep children in the building until the end of the school day.
The youngsters said tension between students and teachers has increased since teachers voted two weeks ago to carry out the work-to-rule action in protest of budget cuts, furloughs and what they say is an increasing potential for the deterioration of the county school system.
As part of that action, teachers are refusing to perform extracurricular duties that are not part of their contract.
At Cockeysville, that meant rescheduling a concert from night to daytime, when many parents can't attend, and cancellation of a nighttime open house called Expo.
"We understand that they have lives and they have families, but we're just growing up now," said 12-year-old Adam Briley. "We need them."