Posted on December 17, 2014

Second Graders Spend Recess Protesting Ferguson. Are They Too Young?

Jennifer O'Neill, Yahoo! Parenting, December 16, 2014

The 20-odd people chanting “Honk if you want justice,” on a New Bedford, Massachusetts sidewalk Dec. 12 got a lot of attention. They were second graders, rallying against police for the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. While the rest of their class enjoyed 11:30 recess that morning, these 7 and 8-year-old protesters stood by the side of the road in front of the Alma Del Mar Charter School holding signs including one that read, “Please don’t shoot me, Ferguson.”

While the students were eager to get involved in the cause, not all of their parents were so thrilled.

George Borden, the father of one participant and a policeman in New Bedford, told WHDH that discovering his 7-year-old had participated in the protest and finding a flyer in her backpack urging people to join a weekend protest “against the unjust systems that allow police officers to kill Black men and boys with impunity,” was “horrific to me.” He says he only learned about the protest after a friend saw it and called him.

Borden told WHDH his daughter asked him, “Daddy, do you shoot people?” And now he wants an apology from his daughter’s teacher.

Yet Will Gardner, the school’s founder and executive director, stands by the school’s decision to let the kids protest, saying it was allowed as part of lesson in civics. Gardner told The Boston Globe that the class’s teacher had sent a note home with her students Dec. 10 alerting parents that the class would be discussing diversity and “issues covered by the media,” and offering kids an opt-out of the talks if parents so chose. The protest “wasn’t something the teacher planned,” he said. “It was something the kids did.”

“We discourage our teachers from sharing their own political and religious views with their scholars,” Gardner added. “[But] we certainly want our scholars to engage in activities that help them to understand what it means to be citizens and what it means to be a democracy.”