Conant students walk out in solidarity with Palestine
More than 100 students walked out of school after 7th period yesterday, November 9, to show support for Palestinians who are affected by the current conflict in Gaza. Students were inspired to have the walkout by other schools across the nation that have participated in similar events.
Students made multiple laps along the perimeter of the football field before circling around the tennis courts and back to Door 25, where the walkout began. Throughout the 50-minute period, students participated in call-and-response chants, including “Free, free Palestine! (Free, free Palestine!)”
More than a dozen teachers, administrators, and other staff were present to supervise the walkout.
Principal Julie Nowak, when asked about school walkouts more generally, said, “Students have a right to exercise their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and to peacefully assemble as long as they are not disruptive to the educational process and as long as we can maintain a safe school environment.”
Many students expressed that they participated in the walkout as a way to bring attention to the crisis in Gaza and to compel United States lawmakers to take action to support the people of Palestine.
Mariam Ali, ‘25, who helped organize the walkout and advocates for Palestine on social media, said, “Many students are affected by this personally; many have lost family members. It’s important we stand up, as this is a matter of being human.”
The conflict between Israel and Palestine goes back several decades. However, tensions have been rising over recent years, and on October 7, Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist militant group from the Gaza Strip, conducted a series of coordinated attacks against Israel, starting with a barrage of approximately 2,200 rockets toward southern and central Israel that killed over a thousand Israelies, many of whom were civilians. In response, Israel initiated an air, sea, and ground campaign on Gaza, which caused the deaths of more than 10,000 residents of Gaza, most of whom were Palestinian civilians. Many Palestinians find this conflict especially concerning due to the large death toll of Palestinian women and children as a result of Israel’s retaliatory attacks.
This issue has emotionally impacted students since October 7, as the coverage on social media has remained constant. Aamina Mazher, ‘24, said with tears in her eyes that she was participating “because families are literally dying. They don’t have their family anymore. It’s very sad to see little kids looking for their parents.”
For some, their advocacy stems from the larger conflict between Israel and Palestine. Kareem Hamidof, ‘25, said, “I’m a Palestinian, so I grew up kind of knowing a lot about… [the things] that have been happening to Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation.”
“I’m glad that everyone’s getting a voice,” Hamidof said. “I’m just here to show support and demonstrate why we have to solve this issue.”
It wasn’t just Palestinians who participated. Many students stressed that they participated because of the human toll of the conflict. “I’m participating in this because, even though I’m not Palestinian, I’m Arab, and it’s really just about empathy, and when you see everything on the news and in photos, it’s just messed up,” Israa Bouguetaya, ‘26, said.
While some students thought the protest was effective in raising awareness, Bouguetaya said the extent of its impact would be fairly limited.
“Some people say that the goal today is to actually do something for the government,” Bouguetaya said. “Nobody’s going to pay attention to a little, small, suburban school. But, I think it will help raise awareness throughout the school, for sure.”
Others saw the walkout as an opportunity to prove how serious Conant students are about the cause. “The strong voices that came out today, the powerful, the brave ones that came out to talk against this…they know what they’re doing…we just want everyone to see that,” Alisha Raheemi, ‘24, said.
Although the conflict in Gaza is thousands of miles away, it reaches well into the United States and is on the minds of many here at Conant. As the conflict continues, Nowak conveyed her empathy for what Conant students may be experiencing during this turbulent moment in history. She said, “While policies and legislation sometimes restrict what students would like for us to do, they can always access their supports through the team rooms and with trusted adults. We truly care about our students and want every student to be safe and seen.”