Students stage sit-in to protest administration's handling of Egg Wars

About 100 Palo Alto High School students staged a quiet sit-in before school in the Tower Building this morning before 2nd period to protest the administration’s handling of Egg Wars.

Students were upset after yesterday’s suspension of many students who participated in Egg Wars, the cancellation of Wednesday’s lunch rally, and the possible cancellation of the rest of Spirit Week. The administration announced during 2nd period that Spirit Week rallies would continue.

Starting from 8 a.m., groups of seniors, juniors and even sophomores arrived in the office to participate in the sit-in.

“We just want to figure out how to come together as an entire school,” senior protester Sam Herzog said. “No one is saying there shouldn’t be a punishment.”

Many participants echoed this opinion by saying very clearly that the issue at hand had nothing to do with supporting or condoning Egg Wars as a tradition.

“We aren’t protesting about Egg Wars,” junior protester Alex Kershner said. “We are protesting the violation of our rights based on the way they are investigating, like viewing surveillance tapes. The punishments are also not the right way to resolve this.”

Many students and staff members feel that suspension was not a fair way to punish students who participated in Egg Wars.

Students generally agree with junior protester Quinn Walker’s suggestion for an alternative punishment involving community service for students who participated in the egging incident, as an alternative to suspensions.

“Instead of suspensions, [the administration] could have made them do community service,” Walker said.

Junior protester Helen Chen added, “the punishment should fit the crime.”

Receptionist Vallen Queen agreed that the participating students should help out, as she thinks the custodians are the ones who will suffer most from this situation.

“Custodians still have to do their job, but now they have extra work,” Queen said.

While most students were dressed according to their Spirit Week theme, many wore shirts that protested the situation. For example, one senior wore a shirt that compared Paly to a prison cell and called for its freedom.

In trying to keep the entire protest from being disbanded early, organizers tried to keep the sit-in silent and kept participants to the sides of the hallway.

The administration announced that it is open to having discussions with leaders of the student protest.

“[Principal Jacquline] McEvoy said she’d be happy to talk to spokespeople, but they need to make an appointment,” secretary Carolyn Benfield said. ”

Many students feel that the protests unified the student body.

“I feel like this [situation] may be bad, but this situation is bringing Paly together more than Spirit Week does,” Walker said. “Spirit Week divides us, and this kind of thing is uniting us. I think it’s felt like it [a students against the administration mentality] is built up over a while for a while, and this is just clarifying the ‘us’ and vilifying them.”

Herzog explained that a sit-in was one of the only options left that had not been tried, and that other attempts at talking to the administration had failed.

“We just want to figure out how we can talk to them as a student body, because they haven’t been listening to our voice,” Herzog said. “I really can’t think of any other way to peacefully protest this.”

The students’ ability to stage a sit-in impressed junior Robert Quijano, who recently moved to Palo Alto from Canada.

“Things like this happened at my old school in Canada, but students didn’t really have a voice,” Quijano said. “I think it’s great that students here can exercise their freedom of speech.”

U.S. history teacher David Rapaport was sympathetic to the protestors.

“I certainly understand why they are here,” Rapaport said. “The point of being in school is learning. I think they are teaching right now.”

Reporters Samara Trilling and Sydney Rock also contributed to this report.