School Survival

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NOTE: Walkouts are apparently illegal in the USA now. You can get charged with truancy if you walk out during school. This guide was written before walkouts were made illegal, so keep that in mind when reading this. Check the truancy laws in your area before you make any plans. I'm not encouraging anyone to go break any laws, OK? Read the disclaimer.

How to organize a ...


Student walkouts are a powerful act of protest. It can be a way to unite with your peers and build a culture of resistance at your school. It is a way to temporarily turn your school upside down and put the students in charge for a change. It is also valuable organizing training for when the real revolution comes. And if done right, it can have a big enough impact that actual change in the system is made.

Probably the first comment you’ll have is “something like that will never happen at my school”. At least that’s what I was saying at the beginning of my senior year of high school. I never thought we would be able to get away with half the stuff we pulled off. Our school was so boring, mundane, uninteresting. By the end of the year, we had published an underground newspaper distributed in several local high schools, had formed a network of radical student activists, and organized a student walkout of hundreds of kids in protest of the war in Iraq.

There is absolutely no reason why you cannot accomplish the same, or better. The ultimate achievement would be a student strike, sit-in, or walkout. But before the fun stuff comes a lot of movement building. Set your sights high, but take practical approaches to your goals.

Before we go any further, your movement must be _about_ something. If it’s just ‘for the hell of it’, you should stop reading now because you will fail miserably regardless. So you need a cause behind your movement? No! You need a movement behind your cause! If you do not have a clear message, you will be quickly written off as mindless teenage rebellion. By having a purpose for the action, you gain legitimacy among faculty and conservative students and reduce the risk of discipline from the authorities. So make this meaningful. Remember: this is a forum for you to express your dissatisfaction with the status quo. Believe me, every school has something unfair about it - dress code, censorship, abusive administrators, pledge of allegiance, etc. If you play your cards right, something may even get done about it.

Right. So now that you have selected a few issues to raise a ruckus about, the first thing you must do before you develop grandoise plans for student revolution is to start talking to people. Gather their thoughts about these issues. Try to get them all riled up and wanting to take action. While many people have their personal differences, almost everyone if you talk to them long enough will agree on some fundamental principles that things are incredibly unfair and something should be done about it.

You will quickly discover that one of the first things that you must overcome is any personal inhibitions you might have towards people. Do NOT be shy or self-restrained. Don’t be afraid to go up to total strangers in a friendly way and start sharing all these personal experiences. Reach out to people of different cultural backgrounds. Don’t let social cliques and popularity contests keep the student body divided - believe me, everyone can unite around the common idea that school is a big waste of time.

Once you get a band of students who want to do something about it, you should call a general meeting. Make little flyers and posters and put them up around school announcing when, where, and why. Get everyone you can together in one room to make some decisions about what can be done about the issue in question. Have everyone go around the room and introduce themselves. Make sure no one feels uncomfortable or left out. I also recommend that you read up about how to organize a meeting based on the directly democratic concensus process where everyone is equal to share ideas on an anti-authoritarian basis.

Whether you want to organize an official student group or remain unofficial is up to you. There are advantages and disadvantages. While being an official student organization, the administration will be forced to consider your actions with more legitimacy, and provide you with school resources, rooms, announcements on the PA, putting posters up around school, etc. However, you are bound by school regulations, which may tie your hands from any fun or rebellious activities. Of course, that does not mean that you can work independent of the organizationIt entirely depends on the context of your school. Gather as much information about school policies regarding student organizations and discuss this choice with the other group members.

Now that you have an activist scene growing at your school, it’s time to release some publications. Consider making an underground newsletter to bring your message to the people. Or just make half-page leaflets. Make the content quick, concise, but most importantly, INTERESTING! No one wants to read a dry, intellectual analysis of this old dude’s interpretation of whatever. Boredom is counter-revolutionary. Your movement needs to be fun, enjoyable and exciting, or no one will want to participate. And when you distribute it to students, raise a ruckus! Stand near the doors in the cafeteria handing out your propaganda while shouting stuff! Make a scene! Blow bubbles and fill the halls with laughter! Get hundreds of copies to your friends so that they can distribute them to their friends and their friends, etc. Make sure every single student has access to it. And promote discussion - bring up the debate in your classes, at lunch tables, with strangers in the lunch line, etc. By now, it has entered the popular consciousness, the seeds have been planted, you have a strong activist scene, and the time is ripe for an action.

What you should do depends entirely on the context your movement takes place in. Try to coincide your action with a particular date of significance(in response to a controversial policy made by the government or your school administration, anti-war protest in nearby cities, etc). If possible, look at your local independent media center( to see if there are other student activist groups planning any actions - and try to coordinate your actions with theirs. Some things to consider might be a student walkout, a sit-in in your school, a march to join up with a larger protest downtown, or in some situations, a simple teach-in to just discuss the issues might be appropriate. However, in order to have any degree of success, you must find a way to bring all the unfocused meaningless rebellion into organized rebellion with a purpose.

Weeks before the event, you should prepare some outreach propaganda. Tape posters up on the walls, in restrooms, classrooms, bulletin boards. Make quarter page flyers explaining where, when, and why. Make a website, advertise it in the official school paper. If you can, try to get it on the school announcements. Make it exciting - hype it up! Make it the topic of everyone’s discussion. Tell everyone you see - even people you don’t know. Do not be afraid to talk to people you don’t know - get used to presenting your movement in a quick two minute discussion, and _don’t be shy_!

Handling the local press is an important factor to consider. A press release should be drafted explaining what, who, where, when, and why. It should be short and concise, yet still keep all the points you want to make intact. Stick to a few key phrases that are repeated everywhere - signs, buttons, leaflets, etc. Around a week before the event, send press releases to all the local newspapers and television networks. Try to invite reporters to take pictures and interview people. At the least, get some of your own people to take pictures and document the event. We were able to make it on network television and several other newspapers.

The protest itself is a blank canvas for you to draw on. Have ideas for activities ready. Don’t be afraid of creating a ruckus - but everything you do must have an obvious purpose. Keep things light-hearted and energetic. Don’t sit still for a second - dull moments are killer, and people will lose interest. Bring fun things to the protest itself. Make drums out of buckets. Make flags and signs. Bring people to play instruments. Get a dance circle going. Have lots of random shit to hand out. Consider graffiti to add some life to your area. Make it lively, entertaining, and interesting - yet still have a very clear, concise point which you are able to back up. When people start leaving, they should be filled with the spirit of activism, having made contacts with other activists, and looking forward to or organizing their own future actions. People should be energized and empowered after the action, not disenchanted and dulled.

There is a certain high one can get from organizing a successful action. If done right, the protest can be a liberating experience for you and your comrades beyond anything else(even sex and the best drugs). If you are lucky enough to achieve the ecstasy of the moment, you know you have been doing something right.

After the action, you should prepare a communique about the events, and call upon other members and their parents to call the school board to leave their comments. Depending on the success of your action, they may be forced to issue a statement or change policies if you have built a solid movement with serious argument that pressures the power that be.

You’re probably wondering why this guide appeared in this magazine. It’s not about hacking. However, it is about building movements of people to accomplish something in real life - a quality that is lacking in computers and computer users. In this increasingly oppressive world, people need to work with others and fight for social justice. All too often hackers consider themselves elite and above it all in the compute realm, but when presented with injustice in the realm world, they simply submit themselves to dominating forces. No more. Resistance is fertile!

by Jeremy Hammond of


Students from Lombard, Illinois walk out of school on March 20 to protest the war in Iraq. Later joined up with Chicago activists to commit acts of civil disobedience and shut down Lake Shore Drive. This was our contribution to the anti-war movement.

This guide is only a basic introduction towards student organizing, and is by far not a comprehensive guide to the complexities of building political movements. However, this should point you in the right direction and help you get started. If you would like to know more, check out these links:,,, etc.

If you're going to have a protest of some sort, you should read the Avoiding punishment page.


blackgate says:
First and last, fucking educate yourself, i studied every restriction and rule and fucking princible under our school board, knowing what the teachers can and cant do it very useful in stressful situations, they cannot controlus from doing something paticular when you know damn well you can. They cannot stop us, keep the spirit alive

Tom says:
I think the best way to get attention before ignoring the rule is probably to take the situation to the press. IF something is agrivating the student body and the school isnt doing anything about it, go to the principal and threaten to take the story public. that usually gets them into action.

To find out exactly what your protesting rights in school (in America) are, go here: Student Rights.

More info at Student Rights Questions.

More info on walkouts: School Walkouts Info.

General info on youth rights: Youth Rights Wiki.

Got any other useful ideas? Contact me and tell me about it :)

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