High school gives the next generation new opportunities to learn and grow, and this is what the students involved with the Huntington Beach Union High School District student strike are doing.
In December, the district announced that teachers would need to take a leave of absence if they did not return to in-person learning by the end of the first semester.
Students would no longer be able to be in contact with their teachers. Students who did not have much of a connection with their teachers would lose the familiarity that they had for the class, homework and tests, while students who had formed connections with their teachers would no longer further those.
Throughout the district, this decision upset many students, parents and teachers. In response, a group of students from around HBUHSD formed HBUHSD Student Strike.
“We had seen a petition to keep HBUHSD teachers to stay at home and we thought to ourselves that this is wrong,” Ocean View High School senior Isabella Brannon said. “We thought that if they couldn’t work from home, we shouldn’t. We made a group chat and thought of the idea of making a strike. I shared this idea during my class period, posted it on my story, and we had 150 people participate in the first week of when it was released.”
The organization Brannon helped start, which now consists of students from Fountain Valley High School, Edison High School, Huntington Beach High School, Marina High School, Westminster High School and Valley Vista High School, aims to bring awareness to virtual teachers’ dilemma and to involve students in taking a stand to support them.
“I love all my teachers and if I were in their shoes, I would be devastated to be forced to choose between my job and my life, especially when you’re in a teaching environment where teenagers can be reckless and attend parties without masks,” HBHS junior Drew Dela Llana said.
HBUHSD Student Strike’s leaders have seen what their teachers have gone through since the start of this pandemic, they say, and want to help in every way possible.
“I believe that teachers sacrifice much to provide students with adequate education and prepare us for the best future possible,” FVHS sophomore Brian Le said. “Therefore, it is my duty as a student to protect teachers the way they protect us. This is very dear to my heart so I uphold these morals through my participation in this organization.”
For the students of the HBUHSD student strike, the first step was to bring awareness to their movement and the return of virtual teachers.
These students have gone on a total of two strikes, missing first periods in January, and they have protested outside of the district building. Students also have received attention from local news stations where they gave testimonials on television.
Social media has had a huge impact on this organization by providing ways for students to share information with friends, share posts on their stories and spread awareness for the organization.
The HBUHSD Student Strike Instagram updates followers about upcoming protests, various petitions, how to register to vote and HBUHSD updates. It welcomes those who want to become more involved and learn more.
“It was my primary responsibility to recruit members from Fountain Valley by means of posting on social media or inviting friends,” Le said.
Not only does this organization advocate for its cause on social media, but they have also been active participants at in-person meetings with the district.
“We’ve attended every board meeting since HBUHSD announced its policy,” Brannon said. “At the most recent meeting we attended, we brought signs that said, ‘Masks are disposable, not teachers.’ We didn’t block the entrance, it was totally civil, but we had at least twenty-five people at the picket.”
At the meetings, the community is allowed to deliver public comments, and this is where the students of the HBUHSD student strike let their voices be heard.
“They have a private session beforehand where they discuss and it’s not open to the public,” Dela Llana said. “Then they have public sessions where everyone in the community can make a three-minute statement. These meetings can last from 15 minutes to two hours. Parents, community members and students attend the meetings.”
Dela Llana added that those meetings offer students other opportunities to have their voices heard.
“We try to do pickets beforehand sometimes, we did a protest in front of the building,” Dela Llana said. “We also register people to vote, have students giving speeches, so we’ve been promoting that.”
As a result of this advocacy and involvement, students have learned new things about politics and their communities as well.
“I have learned that we are less alone than we think,” EHS junior Alex Winnik said. “Change is at our fingertips and all we have to do is speak up. It was great to see kids of different backgrounds come together to help their teachers.”
As Winnik stated, there has been a diverse group of students that have joined together to fight for their teachers, including students from every school as well as every grade.
“I’ve learned a lot of control and self-restraint when it comes to criticism and to be cooperative when things are trying to get done,” Dela Llana said. “It’s been a really great experience not only for myself but for the betterment of the district.”
Despite the positive impact that this organization has had on students and encouraging the community, there can be misunderstandings about this movement. Some parents had thought that this was a movement created for students to skip class.
“It was crazy to me about how all of the information was laid out right there, it really taught me on how you have to be so … thorough and you can’t slip up on anything or have ties to any other organization,” Brannon said.
The HBUHSD student organization has all of its information laid out and organized on their Instagram, including a message about what they stand for and why they created the movement.
“There are a lot of parents who don’t support us because they don’t understand the movement, they misinterpret it, they think we are campaigning to bring an end to hybrid learning or to be all online, it comes from a lot of misunderstanding,” Dela Llana said.
Despite the misunderstandings, the organization continues to push forward with its advocacy. In the future, they plan to organize and attend more protests and contemplate the outcome of the strike.
“We are currently focusing on the outcome of our strike and we are thinking of a vaccination plan for teachers and a virtual academy,” Le said.
The students of the HBUHSD student strike are fighting for their teachers every single day and will continue to fight because they care.