South Orange Middle School Students Continue to Stage Protests in Support of Teachers
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 • 6:04pm
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - South Orange Middle School students continued their protests in support of eighth grade World History teachers Steven Cohen and Kathleen McCort by staging a sit-in in the school's lunchroom today.
The students are protesting that Cohen and McCort did not receive tenure. About 100 students protested outside the school on Monday, and today more than 200 students participated in the sit-in, which took place just after lunchtime in the school's cafeteria. The protesters refused to leave the room when they were dismissed from lunch, instead holding signs, standing on tables, and linking arms. A few students walked out of the school.
Many students complained that the signs that they had posted throughout the school supporting Cohen and McCort were taken down by the school's administration. Students then put up signs reading "Stop ripping up our signs" and "Students Have a Voice." In addition, students started taping the signs on their clothes, saying that the administration could not take these signs off their clothes.
The protest, which lasted about and hour and a half, was monitored by Principal Joseph Uglialoro and Assistant Principal Catherine McDonough. Students said Uglialoro and McDonough tried to remove the protesters from the room, and threatened them with detentions and the loss of school privileges. The students, however, continued protesting. Students also said that when they left the protest to get more signs, they were not allowed back in the cafeteria.
The protest could be heard on all floors of the school, and the majority of 8th grade teachers did not hold class while the protest was happening, as nearly the entire grade was protesting. Some teachers said that no students showed up for their classes.
One teacher stated that when the protest began, teachers were told to leave the cafeteria by the administration. Many other teachers have shown support for the protests, some wearing "I am SOMEA" teachers union shirts earlier in the week. A few teachers placed signs supporting the protest in and outside their classrooms.
Since Monday, there have been South Orange Police officers present outside the school after dismissal, as there has been a protest after school everyday. However, no police officers were present inside the building during the sit-in.
Students say that they are not done protesting, and they are planning more sit ins, walk outs, and protests.
Uglialoro was not immediately available for comment.