Student 'Humanitarian Walkout' For Palestine Planned In Fairfax County

FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA — Students at Robinson Secondary School are planning a “humanitarian walkout” on Thursday in solidarity with Palestinians, an action similar to walkouts held at other schools in Fairfax County over the past two weeks.

The walkout, planned for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday and sponsored by Robinson’s Muslim Student Association, will come less than a week after one of the largest pro-Palestine rallies in U.S. history was held in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Nov. 4.

The rallies and demonstrations are getting larger as Israel’s military continues its bombing of the Gaza Strip following a surprise attack by Hamas fighters inside Israel on Oct. 7 that killed as many as 1,400 people, most of them civilians.

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Nearly 10,000 Palestinians, including thousands of children, have been killed by Israel’s attacks on Gaza since Oct. 7.

Last week, Michelle Reid, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, said the school district will continue “to support our students’ right to free speech.”

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“At the same time, we will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, or racism, as we continue to condemn hate and violence in any form,” Reid in a statement on Nov. 1, following walkouts in support of Palestinians at Justice High School and other schools in Fairfax County. “Our schools must be safe and welcoming spaces to learn for every student in our diverse and global community.”

One parent of a student at Robinson Secondary School said he opposes letting students at the school participate in the walkout. “As a Jewish parent, I am devastated,” the parent said in an email in response to FCPS’s decision to allow the walkout.

The parent said there should have been better communication by the school with parents when it decided to allow the students to stage the action.

Many of the recent calls for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have come from Jewish groups. Hundreds of demonstrators from Jewish advocacy groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now, have been arrested outside the White House and the U.S. Capitol in recent weeks while demonstrating for a ceasefire.

When asked whether FCPS would also let students at schools stage walkouts in support of Israel, an FCPS spokeswoman said, “Yes, we support the rights of all students to stage peaceful and respectful walk outs.”

Another FCPS parent, Josh Ruebner, said he is pleased with the county’s approach to the student walkouts.

“As an FCPS parent, I am very glad that the county is supportive of students’ right to freedom of expression by planning a walkout to stress their solidarity with the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” Ruebner, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of “Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace,” told Patch.

“The students who planned and will participate in this walkout are to be commended for showing their spirit of civic engagement and for standing up for their values,” he said. “We need more brave students like these to publicly express their convictions. As a high school student who walked out to protest the Gulf War, I can attest that this was a formative experience in helping to shape my own civic engagement. Kudos to these students for standing in solidarity with Palestine and to FCPS for supporting their right to do so.”

In an email to parents on Monday, Tracey Phillips, principal of Robinson Secondary School, noted that FCPS does not oppose nor endorse any of the walkouts that have occurred over the past few weeks.

“I have worked with students to provide them guidance to help ensure a safe and peaceful event,” Phillips said in the email. “FCPS respects the rights of our students to engage in peaceful protest and express their opinions through speech and other ways as long as it is done respectfully, does not interfere with the rights of others, and does not disrupt learning in the school.”

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