All About These Student Walkouts!

Dear Youth,

We are so deeply inspired by your actions.

If you have already participated in a walkout or are thinking about it, that’s awesome. We got your back. And, because y’all are planning more, we just wanted to share a few things from our own experiences.

Planning your tactic

Walkouts, like any action, are a vehicle that moves us closer to our goals. Actions (walkouts, rallies, marches, blockades, etc.) are best when they are planned out ahead of time. While spontaneous actions can be fun, they don’t always relay our message well. Planning an action allows you to think through the many ways that the cookie might crumble, so having Plan A, B, C … and all the way through Plan Z, means you’ll be on top of your game. Visualize your action from beginning to end, notice any potential risks, and identify any needs. Figure out what is the safest point where folks can congregate and map out the route you’ll take. Also, how will you communicate with other organizers if plan change?  (Hint: maybe create a WhatsApp text loop for organizers).

Go deeper into action strategy and check out the Ruckus guide here!

Organizing your crew

A key to preparation is assigning folks specific roles, which will help keep your friends organized and safe. For example: if the police come, it is best to have one person who is the designated Police Liason (because too many people talking to the police can make the situation confusing and possibly dangerous). Assign a few Spokespeople to talk to press. Have a Scout keep an eye out for any changes on the route. And don’t forget the Chant-Leaders to keep the energy up!

Check out our Action Roles Handout to see what we suggest.

Keeping your friends safe

We love using the Buddy System for every actions. Find a partner and stay with that partner. Also, have your friends act as Marshalls or Peace Keepers to help keep everyone together in the streets and hold potentially hostile people away. If possible, folks assigned to this role should wear some kind of vest or color so they are easily identifiable.

Communicating your message

Taking a stand is about making your voice heard. What specifically do you want to change? It’s important to build this vision into clear demands and a unified message with your fellow peeps. Visuals are key to communicating this message, because sometimes the media might not fully capture it during an interview. Get creative: bold and beautiful art speaks louder than words.

Our Creative Arts Manual can show you how to make some pretty dope action visuals.

Loving each other

Support is essential! Develop community agreements (shared codes of conduct that get everyone on the same page before an action). And be compassionate: when we take action, sometimes unexpected feelings come up. Ask questions. Listen to your friends. Ask for feedback or concerns. Reach out to your aunties or older cousins and ask them to form a crew to support you all in case you need it. Make sure you have water and snacks with you.

Building your community

When inviting folks to an action or event, make sure to get their contact info so you can follow up. Using commitment cards is a great idea and they will help you get a sense of how many people will attend so you can plan your support team accordingly.

Case Study: The Crystal City Walkouts

Walkouts have a long history in the Chicano student-led movements. 40 years ago, the walkouts of Crystal City, Texas helped launch a movement for Brown students’ rights.

In Crystal City in 1968, more then 86% of the student body was made up of Mexican-Americans, but the students were governed by a mostly white, male school board that prohibited and  punished you for speaking Spanish. There was also zero acknowledgement of Mexican ancestral history in the curriculum. Brown students weren’t even allowed on the pinche cheerleading squad.

Seeing this bullsh*t, the students of Crystal City, like many of you, got fed up and demanded change. Through a series of actions, these dope ass kids rolled up to the school board and demanded dignity and respect in the form of bilingual and bicultural education AND representation in the rigged student board elections. While the fight lasted years, the walkouts proved to be a effective way to pressure the school administration and parents and community alike to take notice, creating a ripple effect that ultimately lead to some real wins in the struggle for civil rights.

Check out more about Crystal City!

P.S. “Legally” speaking…

If you walkout, you could potentially get in trouble since the law requires you to be in school. You could be punished for truancy and the exact punishment you could face will vary by your state, school district, and school. While the school administration could choose to punish you for not being in school, they *cannot* punish you more harshly simply cause you decided to participate in the walkout. Read what the folks at the ACLU say about students’ rights and your First Amendment rights!

Be sure to record your event and share it on social media.

Lastly, don’t let the threat of punishment deter you from what you KNOW is right. And, “Why I Stood Up Against The NRA” is a way better college essay topic than “How Soccer Made Me A Team Player.” Know what I’m sayin?

We hope this info helps, please feel free to share! If your school or organization is looking for a training or action support you should request a Ruckus training for your community.

To the future.