Students from four Howard County high schools protested potential military action against Iraq yesterday, railing with students from across the nation against the notion of teen-age apathy.
Several groups, including the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, designated yesterday as a day of protest against the war, and students at more than 300 colleges and high schools reportedly planned activities.
In Howard, a handful of Mount Hebron students took an early shift, carrying signs along St. Johns Lane at Route 99 in Ellicott City during the morning rush hour before Howard County police escorted them away.
Police noted that the students had failed to obtain county permits for their protests at Mount Hebron and other Howard schools, but said they still permitted them to demonstrate for up to an hour.
"We are monitoring things because we know this day has been designated" as a day of protest, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said. School resource officers learned of the planned protests Tuesday so "we were prepared this morning to address this," Llewellyn said.
At noon, about 50 Wilde Lake students congregated on a snow-covered berm in front of their Columbia campus, but they returned to the building after about 10 minutes, fearing punishment.
"We want to let people know that although most people in high school can't vote, it is going to be affecting us and we don't agree with what the [U.S.] administration wants to do," said Jamie Daniller, an 18-year-old Wilde Lake senior.
"We made our point! Go back to class!" yelled senior Sarah Hersey, who helped organize the Wilde Lake protest.
At Howard High in Ellicott City, 34 students gathered on the school parking lot for an hour at 12:30 p.m. under the watchful eyes of the police resource officer assigned to the school and three other officers, said Principal Mary Day.
"They were very peaceful, very cooperative," she said. "I think we needed to use this as a teachable moment - that protesting does not mean you disrupt the school.
"One of the things I feel that kept it peaceful was giving them their space to protest," she added.
More than 20 students stood in a puddle at the corner of Century Drive across from Centennial High School shortly after 1 p.m. and quietly listened to senior Matt Knapp speak about the conflict between the United States and Iraq.
"Saddam Hussein is not the only leader with weapons of mass destruction," he said. "But U.S. presidents have never suggested bombing" those countries.
Students said yesterday was the first time many had taken part in a protest.
Planning the event was easier than it might have been for their parents or grandparents, thanks to technological advances.
Teen-agers at Centennial and Wilde Lake found out about the national activities through Web sites and e-mail lists. They sent many e-mail messages and posted information, using online instant-messaging services to get the word out.
Kate Flanagan, a 17-year-old Centennial junior, spent much of a Tuesday night T-shirt-making session with her cell phone pressed to her ear and a paintbrush in hand, her reddish dreadlocks arranged in two high pigtails. She coordinated last-minute details while inscribing peace signs on shirts with paint.
"We're adding to a whole sum of people who are against the war," she said.
Flanagan and two others, senior Lisa Miskelly and sophomore Melissa Hanson, made some shirts for themselves and "the whole thing just kind of ballooned," Flanagan said. Originally, a walkout "didn't seem like it would do much good," Flanagan said. "We don't want people participating just because they want to get out of class."
But about 20 Centennial students walked out after more than 100 students gathered in the school lobby at 12:50 p.m. They were allowed 10 minutes to read a prepared speech.
"I'm really proud of the way you guys handled yourselves," Assistant Principal Jennifer Peduzzi said to the group as they wrote their names on a list of protestors who will be required to attend a Saturday morning detention period. "Obviously, you're willing to do that for what you believe in."
The shirts did spark debate and response, Miskelly said. Several Centennial students who supported a potential war handed out fliers and wore shirts supporting their stance, she said.
At the request of students, several teachers at Wilde Lake are sponsoring a peace club, which Principal John R. Quinn said was an appropriate way to channel their energy. He said students would be punished on an individual basis for being late to class, but would not be suspended. "We've been crunched with a loss of instructional time due to the snow-outs," Quinn said. "I'm trying to keep them in [class], not keep them out."
Parents David and Robin Procida came to support their daughter, Alysa, a senior at Wilde Lake. David Procida, who supports military action in Iraq, said he often has heated debates with his daughter.
"It's like a war in my house every day," Robin Procida joked. But they said they respect their daughter's opinion and admired her for protesting.