Jul 30, 2014

Trayvon Martin's Death Prompts 'Hoodie Day' at High School

Students will wear hooded sweatshirts in honor of slain Florida teen

Trayvon Martin's Death Prompts 'Hoodie Day' at High School

Students at will wear "hoodies" on Friday in homage to 17-year-old .

The unarmed teen was wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was slain in Sanford, FL by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, 28, was not charged in the case after he told authorities he acted in self-defense.

The shooting sparked a national firestorm, spurring protests and solidarity marches around the country from many who believed race played a factor in the incident.

And now the debate has come to West Orange.

Kahina Jean-Baptiste, a freshman at the high school, told Patch she was "outraged" no arrests had been made in Martin's death and decided to take matters into her own hands.

"What happened was murder and there should be justice," Jean-Baptiste, 14, said. Along with a handful of students, Jean-Baptiste organized a silent protest to send a clear message to the community.

"We are sending a message that in West Orange we do know what's happening around us," she said. "We're using a community that's extremely diverse to extend our support."

Come Friday, students will arrive at school sporting hooded sweatshirts with the hoods over their heads. The students will again be allowed to pull their hoods up during 11th and 12th period and as they exit the school.

"We're going to show that not all kids with their hoods up are up to no good," Jean-Baptiste said.

Louis Della Pia, assistant principal at the high school and dean of students, said the though the movement was student-led, the administration has been working with the students to ensure safety, "It's important that we maintain our instructional day as well as health and safety."

He said while school policy prohibits students from wear anything on their heads, the ban will be temporarily lifted in support of the students.

"(The students) said they wanted to do a peaceful demonstration. We wanted to be sympathetic to the student cause," Della Pia told Patch.

Superintendent of West Orange Schools Dr. Anthony Cavanna said, "It speaks to who (the students) are, they've identified a social justice issue, they've taken it on and we want to support that to the extent that we can support that."

Students have taken to social media to promote Friday's demonstration, creating a Facebook page and taking to Twitter. They also plan to speak at tonight's board of education meeting at the high school.

"We do have a chance to show our opinions without being violent or disrupting," Jean-Baptiste said.

Despite recent reports that reveal Zimmerman told police he was attacked by Martin before he used lethal force, activists around the nation and here at home maintain the incident is a case of racial profiling.

"He was a 17-year-old boy, I honestly don't think that (Zimmerman) as a man, being so grown, should have resulted to lethal force to get a 17 year old off of him," Jean-Baptiste said.

The silent protest is the first time in two years the students have rallied behind a cause, school officials said, citing the peaceful student walkout in 2010 on the heels of Gov. Chris Christie's proposed statewide school budget cuts.

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