Students swarmed to the front of Herndon High School yesterday (Monday) to protest a pending Supreme Court decision that could overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
The group gathered for about a half hour after lunch, filling up a road, wearing the color green to show support and displaying signs that advocated for abortion rights. Slogans included “Keep your laws off my body,” which was coupled with a picture of a uterus, and “My body is not a political playground.”
Students chanted phrases such as “My body, my choice” and used a megaphone that the school provided. Herndon High School Principal Liz Noto gave permission for students to hold the rally, and school staff stood by in case they needed to intervene.
“I’m honestly really surprised,” co-organizer Grace Dowell said. “I didn’t think that this many people were going to come out here and support us today.”
Since Politico published a draft opinion by the Supreme Court on May 2, pro and anti-abortion advocates, elected officials, and the public have been grappling with the potential implications of an end to the court ruling that has upheld abortion access as a right for almost 50 years.
While recent polls suggest a majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, 23 states have laws restricting or banning abortion that are currently in effect or that would take effect if the leaked opinion is finalized.
The tension surrounding the issue played out at Herndon High School when a counter-protest emerged in the middle of the group. Students leading the rally urged those advocates to leave.
Dowell said she hopes legislators and the government in general will pay attention to young voices. She and co-organizer Alissa Huq, also a 10th grader, worked with the student-led organization Generation Ratify Virginia, which is seeking ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, to lead their first rally.
The organization said it helped coordinate demonstrations at 45 schools across the state to demand federal and state measures that will codify Roe v. Wade, including the certification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution.
“I have engaged in countless conversations with students locally and throughout our state, and they long to have their voices respected and acknowledged in the fight for reproductive rights,” Generation Ratify Virginia Policy Director Felix Hedberg said in a statement. “It’s time to listen to youth…Generation Z is ready to capitalize on that attention to ensure Youngkin and Virginia Republicans won’t succeed in rewriting Virginia as a commonwealth against abortion access.”
According to Generation Ratify Virginia, other Fairfax County high schools that planned demonstrations yesterday included Centreville, Chantilly, James Madison, John R. Lewis, Langley, Marshall, McLean, Oakton, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and W.T. Woodson.
Students at South Lakes High School in Reston were planning to participate as well, but their protest has been rescheduled for Thursday (May 12) “due to admin concerns,” Generation Ratify Virginia State Director Abby Garber told FFXnow.
Christa Anderson, a ninth grader at Herndon High, noted that corpses have rights and questioned how pregnant people’s liberties would compare if Roe v. Wade is rescinded. Her classmate Nora Blythe said the potential Supreme Court decision is upsetting but was glad to see the support of students there.
“It’s our future, and it’s going to affect us,” Dowell said. “I want to get that message out there.”
In an effort to curb cell phone use, Herndon High School is implementing a school-wide ban on cell phone and headphone use in all classes.
The policy went into effect yesterday (Monday) after what Principal Liz Noto called an “all time high” of student phone use.
Noto offered an update to the school community about the policy change over spring break.
Students will still be able to use their phone during lunch time and passing times, according to the letter. Once class begins, phones must be turned off and put away.
The school outlined a number of exceptions to the rule, including using phones to monitor medical conditions and specific documented learning needs.
Teachers can also provide students with a five-minute phone break during class and use cell phones for specific learning activities.
Here’s more from Noto’s update:
We want you to know that we value your communication with your child. If you need to urgently get in touch with your child and waiting for the end of the class period or for a five-minute cell phone break during class will not suffice, please call the main office at 703-810-2200 and we will help you reach your student.
Teachers will be following through on this new policy very diligently. It is our priority to engage you student in learning and this is a major step toward that goal. Please help reiterate the importance of this new policy with your student. Thank you for your continued support.
FCPS was not immediately available for comment on the policy, but the school system does let students use their personal devices to access the Internet and collaborate with other students during the day, according to its technology policy.
Phones can be pulled out if teachers allow it.
The policy changed in 2011 when cell phones had to be out of sight at all times.
The change comes as counties across the state embrace the potential advantages of cell phone use in academic settings. Suffolk County, for example, encourages students to use cell phones to access information online and play subject-related games.