Students on Strike!

by Eleanor Dalton

The LAUSD teacher’s strike began on a rainy Monday, leaving nearly 600,000 students with the daunting question of what in the world to do. This being the first teacher strike in 30 years, no one was used to sudden and unexpected time off. Parents of elementary school students found themselves in a scramble to find childcare, but many high school students were faced with a different experience. The week and how they spent it was, for the first time for many, in the students’ hands.

In the days prior to the strike, suspense hung in the air. “I would say the environment was very nerve-racking, almost. A lot of people weren’t sure about what was going to happen (...) and so it just left a lot of uncertainty,” says freshman Madison Stewart. Rumors flew quickly, and questions were often left unanswered- absences, specifically truancy, troubled many students. “A lot of the talk was just about your attendance,” freshman Abigail Iya recounts. During the strike, it was settled that no one would be punished for their absences, and they could easily be cleared. As a result, going to school felt like a lost cause to many, while some simply didn’t feel safe being on campus. “All I knew is that I wasn’t going to school because I personally did not feel safe. [But] at the end of the day, I’m doing it for a reason. I’m picketing for a reason.”

Students joined teachers on the picket lines on Monday, carrying along with them meticulously made signs and high spirits. Witty chants echoed through the pouring rain, the energy staying high even in such dreary weather. “I always see the teachers so composed, (...) and then watching what they’re saying, and seeing them out there where it’s just like, them fighting for what they want, it was really interesting,” Lucinda Stewart recalls. “[I realized] how empowering it is to be with all the teachers and students, with UTLA, during a time where we really had to stand up and deal with a lot. The rain and everything was a whole other element. It just felt really strong and powerful to be young activists, being with a group of people that believe in the same rights as you did, with the teachers, and supporting them.”

The school community picketed from 7:00-9:00 in the morning and 2:00-4:00 in the afternoon, but in between, it was up to the students as to how they spent their days. In a time of need, the city of Los Angeles provided several resources for educational entertainment for those who didn’t attend school. From 5 a.m. to 7 p.m, Metro offered free rides to kids who showed their student IDs to fare enforcement officers and bus drivers. Mayor Eric Garcetti stated prior to the strike that “We have to do everything possible to ease the burden on parents and children affected by a strike. Free rides on Metro mean that families will have one less thing to worry about while both parties work toward an agreement.” Along with the free rides around town, students were given free admission to the National History Museum, LaBrea Tar Pits, and LA Zoo (to name a few). Garcetti ensured that students could spend their free time looking at art, artifacts, and animals, if they didn’t feel like staying home or going to school. These resources didn’t go to waste- during that week, one would often see photos of zoo animals on Instagram, or students taking the bus or subway. People would meet up with friends during the day, watching their siblings, or just catching up on schoolwork.

Of course, there was the option of actually going to school. While very few students attended (), those who did were sorted by grade level into the biggest accessible spaces. With the south gym and auditorium under construction and the weather being less than cheery outside, students were confined to the library, cafeteria, and north gym, where very little happened. Students would complete brief worksheets provided, watch movies, or do homework under the supervision of administration, some from the school itself and others from the LAUSD. headquarters downtown. A general consensus proves that being at school wasn’t all that exciting, but was still a good option for those who simply didn’t have a choice to do otherwise.

For a week, the teenagers of Los Angeles got a glimpse into what it meant to be your own person. While putting a hold on education is never ideal, it was still an important learning experience for many. “It’s an experience to have when you’re in high school, knowing how much the teachers really want for you, and how much they will do to get what they really have a passion for.” Regardless of where you were or what you were doing during the strike, the students of ERHS can definitely agree that we’re incredibly proud of our teachers for fighting for their rights, and endlessly thankful that they fought for ours.