Who do you think is really powerful? I will tell you: students and parents. When either group gets organized, they have real power. Consider the parents who opted out in New York: they made Governor Cuomo beat a fast retreat. No one knows how to stop them. No one can stop them.


And now there are the high school students in Boston. They organized a protest against massive budget cuts. They planned meticulously. And thousands of students walked out, ready with signs of protest. The students are fighting for what they need and deserve: a well-resourced education. This should be their right. They should have to fight for it. But they are fighting, and their voices are powerful.



Hours before more than 3,500 of their peers would march out of their classrooms toward Boston Common, a small group of high schoolers was glued to a group chat on their phones. It was 3 a.m., and they needed to make sure everything was ready for the district-wide protest they’d spent the past week organizing.


Were the posters finished? Yes. Was the meeting place finalized? Yes. Did they all promise that, no matter what, they would leave their classrooms at 11:30 a.m.?




“There’s this stereotype that young kids don’t know what we’re doing and should let adults handle things because it’s their fight more than ours,” said Jahi Spaloss, a senior at Boston Green Academy. “But we’re the ones in school. This fight is ours.”


Elected officials were sure that adults were behind the protest. Wrong. The students organized it and carried it out. It was their idea.


The notion of a walk-out was hatched on Feb. 27, when three sophomores at Snowden International High School attended a leadership conference at Harvard University and felt inspired after they learned about successful college protests against racism and sexism.


“We knew that all the schools in the district would be impacted by the budget cuts,” said Jailyn Lopez, a sophomore at Snowden who helped organize the protest. “We knew at our school that we might lose foreign language programs and teachers we liked. We decided to do something about it.”


Their first step was writing a letter explaining the budget cuts, which they posted to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on Feb. 29. In the letter, they warned: “Your school will have less extra-curricular activities, if any at all. If students are engaged in school, there would be less cracks for our youth to even look towards violence. We have lost too many young lives already.”


The students used social media to communicate, plan and reach other students.


Over the weekend, the district sent out a series of robocalls and texts to inform parents that students would be marked absent if they walked out of class. But that only increased the students’ determination.


“It gave us more motivation,” Lopez said. “This was something we organized and we felt like people were trying to discourage us from standing up for what we believed in. And after all the calls, we felt like even more people knew about it and wanted to stand up for their schools too….”


At 11:30 Monday morning, the mobilization began.


Students from grades 6 through 12 stood up and walked out of their classrooms, chanting: “They say cut back, we say fight back,” and “What do we want? Education!”


In the end, more than 3,600 students flooded the streets, a number that amazed even the organizers themselves.


Afterward, Mayor Walsh said he’d like to find out who organized the protest and hoped the adults behind it “start to feed the young students in our city with accurate information.”


The mayor’s office tried to mollify the students by saying that there would not be $50 million, as first reported, but only $30 million.


A student leader responded.


But [Brian] Foster said the students don’t feel as if that’s true—which is why they decided to take a stand.


“It’s kind of like they’re saying, ‘Don’t worry it’s not $50 million, it’s $30 million,’” he said. “That doesn’t answer anything. Even if it’s a $1 deficit, it’s the idea that you’re taking away from students’ futures.”


Students said this was not a one-time event. If the city goes through with cuts, they will be back on the streets again.