Classes at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx were brought to a halt on Sept. 19 as hundreds of students walked out in protest against new security measures.

Students must now enter through checkpoints lined with metal detectors, barcode ID scanners and X-ray machines. In addition, the Department of Education forced the high school to hold “captive lunches” in the newly expanded cafeteria, ending DeWitt’s longstanding tradition of allowing students to leave the premises to buy lunch in the nearby Jerome Avenue shopping district. The school also placed a blanket ban on cell phones inside school property.

The Department of Education forced through the security measures over the summer. Students say that the new measures inconvenience them and abolish freedoms they long enjoyed.

As the school year started, the checkpoint equipment was still being installed. Captive lunches had begun, and announcements were made about the new rules and procedures. Students talked among themselves to devise ways of airing their grievances. On the first day the security measures were implemented, students showed up wearing symbolic chains and passing around petitions.

When students were finally faced with passing through the checkpoints, patience quickly wore thin. A bottleneck formed at the entrance, as only two checkpoints were fully operational. Students queued around the block. Fed up, they walked out of classes en masse. Some stayed to speak with school administrators, while others went to the 1 Fordham Plaza offices of the Department of Education, or just took the day off.

Conversations between students and administrators have led to the installation of more checkpoint rigs at more entrances to decrease waiting times. Several students, however, believe the problems are much deeper.

“They tried to come up with a quick and easy solution,” said Juan Antigua, a 16-year-old junior at Clinton and member of Sistas and Brothas United, a local youth group. “They thought the reason why the kids were mad was just because the long lines.
They didn’t ask the students about it.”

Antigua told TheIndypendent that the cell-phone ban and captive lunches are more pressing concerns among his friends, but these points are not being raised by the students who are being approached by the administration. He says many students are still frustrated and disorganized.

Meanwhile, students are still buzzing about the walkout, both in the hallways at school and on Internet bulletin boards. Many are talking about what they will do next.