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Students picket outside H.B. High

Leaders of daylong protest say school puts too much stress on grades, too little on creativity. 'I refuse to be a sheep,' one sign reads.

November 09, 2011|By Michael Miller
  • Chris Casey, left, and Rafael DeCamargo, far right, and other students protest outside Huntington Beach High School on Monday afternoon.
Chris Casey, left, and Rafael DeCamargo, far right, and… (DON LEACH, HB Independent )

More than a dozen Huntington Beach High School students have protested in front of campus this week against what the leaders called an overemphasis on grades and assignments and a failure by teachers to encourage independent thought.

The students, some of whom have skipped class for the demonstrations, gathered by the school at 1905 Main St.

Juniors Rafael DeCamargo and Chris Casey and sophomore Canyon Stewart said they began the protest Monday morning and other students joined as the day progressed.

Several protesters said they planned to gather outside the school every day for the rest of the week. By refusing to attend class, they said, they hoped to send a message to the administration.

"I think this is more important than the material," Rafael said Monday when asked if he worried about his grades suffering as a result of a week-long truancy.

The group had two handwritten picket signs, one reading, "Will work for change — I refuse to be a sheep," and the other reading, "I want an education, not a grade — I refuse to be silent." Students took turns holding the signs and waving them at passing drivers, who sometimes honked.

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Among the protesters' complaints, according to Rafael and Chris, were that teachers put too much emphasis on memorization and tests, that classroom discussions didn't encourage students enough to think independently and that the school put too little emphasis on students' post-graduation career plans.

Some solutions, Rafael said, would be to give students more of a hand in shaping classroom discussions and to make class participation the most important part of a grade. He noted that he got the idea for the protest last week after he wrote a paper for class about his theories on education and some of his teachers encouraged him to demonstrate.

Principal Janie Hoy, however, came out to talk to the demonstrators Monday and said afterward that they might want to rethink their strategy.

"I said, 'So what are your concerns, you guys?'" Hoy said. "It was in regards to, one said, grades. One was saying, 'We're being judged on our performance, not necessarily our ability,' and I would imagine when they said 'judged,' [they meant] 'graded.' That was about the gist of what I got.

"I said, 'At the same time, you're missing class, and how will that affect your performance?' There wasn't a whole lot of thought about how that was going to play out."

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