Southampton students continued their protest on Friday afternoon, vowing to stay seated in the lobby until the end of the school day.
On Friday morning, Southampton Principal Dr. Brian Zahn said the protest was well organized, and students were honoring administrative requests to keep the sit-in to one area and not block fire exits or hallways. He added that the protest came after several days of questions about what students could do to support the merger. Dr. Zahn said he has spoken with several students this week, including members of the student counsel, about how to voice their opinion on the topic, but noted he knew nothing about the protest until this morning when it started.
“I can tell you there has been a level of disappointment among all of our students that you can really feel here at the high school,” he said. “The kids are very concerned about how their future here together looks, and what the future of Southampton High School likes like.”
Across town in Tuckahoe, Superintendent Chris Dyer said he believes the movement was sparked by emotions being felt throughout both communities. He said he encourages the children to let their voices be heard, and invites them to the Tuckahoe Board of Education meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Monday night at the school library as the district begins to plan for its future.
“Children are wonderful expressions of their families and their community,” Mr. Dyer said. “We live in a dual community with one high school predominantly attended by our kids. There are so many emotions that are going on in our community right now. We are proud of all of our kids.”
Approximately 150 Southampton High School students held a peaceful sit-in in the school lobby Friday morning to protest the results of the failed Tuckahoe/Southampton merger vote.
On Friday morning, event organizer and sophomore Sebastian Cuyjet, 16, said many of the students in the district were disappointed with the results of Tuesday night’s vote, which would have allowed for further discussion of a proposed annexation of the Tuckahoe School into the Southampton District.
Although the merger proposal passed overwhelmingly in the Tuckahoe district, 565-35, it failed with Southampton residents,1,075-693. Without the merger, the Tuckahoe administration is faced with saving money, and may have to pull Tuckahoe high school students from the Southampton district in favor of a cheaper tuition alternative. Tuckahoe students make up approximately one-third of the high school population.
“I decided to organize this sit-in of the student body to show that we are really disappointed in the Southampton adult community about the result of the merger,” Sebastian said in a phone interview from the protest. Sebastian, who has never attended the Tuckahoe district, said he feels strongly in favor of the merger. “Tuckahoe and Southampton students, we are family. Tuckahoe students have been here for years and we like the social diversity, and social flow, that happens here every day.”
Another student organizer, 16-year-old Stefania Gonzalez, a junior who attended the Tuckahoe School for one year before transferring to Southampton, said the students were prepared to stay in the school lobby until they felt their voices had been heard, and were willing to stay there all day if necessary. She added that the protest is on behalf of the entire student body, and not just a select few.
“We want to be heard,” Stefania said on Friday. “We will stay as long as we feel that someone has heard us.”
On Friday morning, Southampton Superintendent of Schools Dr. Scott Farina said the protest was peaceful, and that the students were sitting in the atrium of the High School, just outside of the auditorium. He added that the merger was a very important subject among the students, and he was proud of them for making their voices heard in a peaceful way.
“I certainly don’t have any problem with a peaceful protest,” Dr. Farina said. “I am proud of the students. This is an important, and emotional, topic for them.”