Chicago public high school students planning sit-in in support of Palestinians in Gaza

Some parents concerned about what an in-school protest could mean for students

Sarah Schulte Image
Tuesday, April 30, 2024
CPS students planning sit-in in support of Palestinians in Gaza
As student protests spread across the country, CPS students at Jones College Prep are planning a sit-in in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Students at Jones College Prep are planning a sit-in protest Wednesday in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

But some parents are concerned about what an in-school protest could mean for students.

Fliers promoting the sit-in are wrapped around every light pole in front of Jones College Prep in the city's Printer's Row neighborhood. Students at the selective enrollment Chicago public high school plan to hold a demonstration inside the building's lobby Wednesday afternoon, during fourth period.

The sit-in has caused Jones to postpone its College Decision Day Celebration, which was supposed to take place Wednesday.

"My biggest concern about the sit-in is that there is no way for the administration, the district or the leadership in the school to manage what the children will be saying and to ensure that there will not be hate speech," parent Rachel Gigliotti said.

Based on previous high school and college campus protests, some parents of Jones Jewish students are concerned the in-school protest will include antisemitic posters and language.

"As parents, we are asking that they move it into the auditorium, to have it be less disruptive to all the students, who are just trying to go to class, and continue their learning and not be part of the protest,"Gigloitti said.

As of now, the school is allowing the sit-in to proceed in the lobby.

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In a lengthy letter sent to parents, Principal Kerry Dolan said in part, "As an administration, it is our job to ensure the safety of all students - those who choose to participate in any sort of civic action, and those who choose not to. Those participating in the sit-in must ensure their language and actions are respectful of their fellow school community members."

"Courts have generally held the school has the ability to control messages, if the school saw signs that were particularly troublesome or violated their code of conduct," said Ed Yohnka, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Yohnka said because the purpose of school is to educate students, schools do have the legal right to control the situation inside a school, as long as all speech is treated equally in terms of what is being allowed.

"You don't want to get into a place where schools are picking and choosing which messages get favored status," Yohnka said.

During Wednesday's protest, Jewish students have been offered a safe place to go or the right to counter-protest. Parents are asking for more.

"I feel that the Jewish students need to see that there are consequences, if there is any hate speech, in order for them to feel that the trusted adults in their life are protecting them," Gigloitti said.

CPS guidelines limit student demonstrations to 30 minutes. Jones' principal said if students do not return to class by 2:15 p.m., it will be an un-excused absence.

The College Decision Day Celebration has been rescheduled for Friday.