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DHS students walk out

by Merrie Leininger

About 200 of the 1,408 Douglas High School students refused to go to classes Friday morning and gathered in the gym to provide for themselves what they say the school has refused to give them – a homecoming assembly.

Senior Melanie McKenzie, 18, one of the organizers of the protest, said students were upset “because we can’t show school spirit at all any more.”

“We had our assembly canceled and we haven’t done anything to deserve it,” she said.

McKenzie and two other seniors, Anthony Bartone, and a student who wished to remain anonymous, told their classmates at the Friday morning break to boycott class.

“We just pulled everyone in at break,” she told the R-C by cell phone from the scene. “We might get suspended for this, but all of us are standing up for what we believe.”

The homecoming activities and basketball game were postponed Jan. 30 because of a problem with the heating system. The assembly and dance have not been rescheduled.

“We had dancing and music. We had our own little assembly,” McKenzie said.

Bartone was one of three DHS varsity football players who skipped a mandatory Saturday practice in November following the team’s loss to archrival Carson City. He was suspended from the team for one week and was ineligible to play in the first round of the playoffs which the Tigers lost to Elko.

McKenzie said the students were also upset at the school’s attendance policy and graduation requirements.

Teachers, who decided not to push the issue and force students to leave the gym, stood at the door and made jokes about their protesting days in the 60s.

Student Nicole Cavanaugh, 17, said that at about 10:45 a.m., Vice Principal John Carlson and other staff members managed to move students out of the gym.

“After a while, they just told us to go back to class or go home,” Cavanaugh said.

– Left campus. Many students left campus at that point, she said. She said she planned to attend the Hug High School game Friday, during which the homecoming court was to be crowned. What will happen on Monday remains to be seen, although Cavanaugh said students are fed up and may continue their protest.

“They said we will have an assembly next week, but they have said that all year. I think it’s going to keep going,” she said.

Cavanaugh, who is a senior, said during her sophomore year, there were six assemblies for athletic events and to introduce the candidates for various elections.

“Last year we only had four and this year we’ve only had two,” she said. Cavanaugh said student representatives have asked for more assemblies and have been turned down without a reason.

According to Superintendent Pendery Clark, many district administrators and elementary school staff and principals were participating in a training session at the administration building at the time of the protest.

– Miscommunication. Clark said she thinks there may have been a miscommunication somewhere along the line between the student reps and the student body. Clark said she understood there had been frustration and concern on the part of the students who felt there wasn’t support for the school spirit assemblies.

But, Clark added, since the high school is on a block schedule, which means classes in two-hour blocks every other day, if students miss one class, they may not have it for three days. Administrators say teachers have asked that disruptions in the school day be minimized.

Cavanaugh said the students are not allowed to put posters up that support the sports teams and are told not to cheer at games or they will be kicked out.

“I think we are doing something right. I think we have every right to cheer for our team,” she said. “I think if a lot of people would know what’s going on, if parents were helping us, we could all sit down and talk about this like adults and solve it.

School district representative Maggie Allen, who was at the school, said she thinks Carlson did a good job of listening to the students’ concerns and defusing the situation.

“John Carlson talked to them and listened to their concerns. I think he handled it well,” Allen said.

Carlson said school returned to normal later Friday and students who did not go back to class will be marked as an unexcused absence.

He said he will be meeting with student council Monday to address their concerns further. He said the school will try have another assembly before the zone playoffs.

n R-C reporters Sheila Gardner and Linda Hiller contributed to this story.

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