While some middle-schoolers fret about homework, makeup and gossip, others are staging political protests to motivate fellow students into action. Although they know they're not old enough to vote, several students at Frost Middle School have arranged weekly protests against the war in Iraq. The purpose of the protests, they say, is to help students form their own opinions about the war with Iraq beyond those of their parents and the president.
"We’d like to raise awareness," said eighth-grader Sam Penney, who organized the Tuesday protests.
Sam wanted to voice his opposition to the war and asked the school’s administration about the possibility of a walkout. When the principal said that could result in a suspension, Sam and his fellow classmates decided a protest before the school’s opening would be more appropriate.
The weekly protests began March 18 and will continue for as long as the students see fit.
"I’m not saying America is evil, but our foreign policy is misguided … we need to be less of a bully in the world playground," Sam said, adding that he supports the troops.
Fellow eighth-grader Michelle Eboch became involved in the protests because she, too, wanted to inform her classmates about the war. Although her parents are pro-war, she has taken a stand against it.
"I want people to know that I don’t agree with what’s happening," Michelle said.
Her twin sister, Anna, said although she supports the troops, she thinks the United States has fueled anti-American world sentiment by insisting on the war with Iraq. She became interested in the issue before the war started, because her friend’s mother works for the CIA.
"I don’t think the motives there are right, and I definitely don’t agree on going at this without a UN resolution," Anna said.
IN ADDITION to the protests, students have also distributed stickers, buttons and pencils, all calling for an end to the war with Iraq.
"A lot of people support our cause, I think, but they’re not willing to go out there" to protest, said Anna. But "by taking the stickers, they’re supporting us."
Support also comes from parents, who approve of their willingness to take action.
"We’re proud of the young people at Frost because they’re expressing their concerns about the war in a constructive way," said Susan Penney, Sam’s mother.
To keep themselves informed, the three regularly read news Web sites. Anna and Michelle take their teacher’s Washington Post insert on the Iraqi war and read it when they have time between classes.
Yet protesting has been hard for the students sometimes. All three have faced ridicule and jeers from peers who disagree with their views.
"People call us Nazis, while they are trying to limit our free speech," Sam said.
Anna agreed. "I’m really glad to be an American … I really enjoy my right to question the government … What’s more patriotic than speaking up when your country is wrong?"
If anything, the experience of protesting has taught them to speak out in the face of adversity.
"It’s taught me that if I have an opinion I feel strongly about, to put it out there," Anna said.