Some MHS students show support for teachers
Last Thursday, students from several area high schools left their buildings and staged their own protests over Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill and in support of their teachers. The walk-outs by students at D.C. Everest and Wausau East high schools were larger, more disruptive and did not have the blessing of their school authority.
In contrast, the 50 or so MHS students not only worked with Principal Shannon Murray to make their rally as least disruptive to the school as possible, they got feedback from school administrators on some aspects of their plan.
So while Everest and East school administrators had to work to get their students back into class, the Merrill students completed their protest and were on their way back to class or finish their lunch in 30 minutes. As they slowly marched up and down the sidewalk in front of their school, Murray, several of his staff and teachers and MAPS administrators silently watched through the fog from the front door.
“It’s a good, teachable moment. And judos for the students for standing up for something they believe in,” Murray said.
MHS junior Elise Ordemann, the daughter of MHS teacher and MTA officer Cathy Ordemann, came up with the idea for the protest. She said she was inspired by what she was seeing from the protests happening at the state capital building. Like the protesters there, she also wanted her protest to be as peaceful as possible.
So she and several friends approached Murray with the idea.
“I think what Scott Walker is doing is wrong,” Elise Ordemann said. “My mom is a teacher here and she’s a single mother. For him to say we’re rich is also wrong. I just wanted to show her my support.”
Meanwhile, Ordemann also took a page from the recent uprising in Egypt and took to the social networking site Facebook to invite fellow students to attend the rally. As details were firmed up with Murray, and the exact procedure and time was worked out, it and the rules the students would have to abide by were also posted on an “event page” on Facebook.
“I have to give them credit,” Murray said. “They did this the right way.”
The time of the protest, 11 a.m., was picked because it is the lunch period with the most students. Those students who would otherwise be in class could attend with a note from a parent. Students using the protest as a cover for skipping class would be punished.
“For the students who have missed class, that too will be a teachable moment,” Murray said.
When 11 a.m. came, a few students approached Ordemann by the main school door and they passed around painted protest signs before they walked outside to the sidewalk next to Sales Street. They were joined around the wooden chair the leader stood on by 10 more within minutes. By the time the group had marched up and down in the fog for about five minutes, students flocked out of the front door to join had swelled their ranks to 53 strong.
The group marched from one driveway to the other on Sales, chanting protest slogans like the people in Madison used. As cars and even a school bus drove by and honked, the protesters got a little louder.
With about 10 minutes left in the protest, Ordemann had the students gather around her chair and told them what she knew about Walker’s bill and why it was bad for teachers. The students cheered their support at each pause. Then the students resumed their march, pausing only for a two minute moment of silence in support of their teachers as they held hands, forming a human chain.
Then 11:30 arrived and the students filled quietly into the building.
After the protest, Ordemann said she was pleasantly surprised by the turn out by her fellow students.
“There’s more than what I expected, even with the page on Facebook,” she said.
Murray, a MHS alumnus himself, was impressed with how well the students conducted the event.
“We have never had a political protest like this before,” he said. “It’s nice to see the students come together.”