Students at several Loudoun County public high schools organized walkouts on Feb. 10 in protest of President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel from seven predominately Muslim countries.
At Rock Ridge High School in Ashburn, around 200 students left the building and walked to the football stadium, then sat in the bleachers as six fellow students addressed them. Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) public information officer Wayde Byard said there were about 70 students who also walked out at Broad Run High School as well as 100 at Briar Woods High School. All three Ashburn schools have large Muslim student populations. He said 122 students walked out at Potomac Falls in Sterling and 50 at Loudoun Valley in Purcellville. Only a handful of students walked out at any of the county’s 10 other public high schools.
The walkouts were scheduled for the end of the school day when they would be least disruptive, and LCPS administrators had prepared all week.
The Rock Ridge speakers shared stories about how the travel ban hurt them and their families. They also expressed concerns about newly confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss, who they said would hurt the quality of their education and make college more difficult to afford.
All week there were rumors circulating in school hallways and social media about the size and scale of the protests. Event organizers spoke with school principals beforehand, and protesters said they knew they would face discipline for skipping the last class of the day.
That didn’t deter dozens of students, and the energetic crowd cheered the speakers and displayed signs while standing outside in near-freezing temperatures for about half an hour.
“It shows that, maybe they aren’t affected by what’s going on, but they stand against injustice anywhere,” said Rock Ridge student Darya Tememmi. “It shows that they don’t want to see other people suffering.”
Since the ban was enacted on Jan. 27, Tememmi said it left many Rock Ridge students and community members fearful and worried about further restrictions targeting Muslims and other minorities in the future. Tememmi, who’s parents immigrated from Iraq and Turkey, said a friend was weeping with joy after a judge blocked implementation of the travel ban earlier this week.
Update Feb. 10 5:30- The story has been changed to show the officials numbers of protesters