JUST IN: Alexandria City High School students walk out in protest against Israel-Hamas war

A student walkout at Alexandria City High School protesting for a ceasefire to the Israel-Hamas war, Nov. 9, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Students walked out of classes at Alexandria City High School’s King Street campus this morning to support a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Hundreds of students at the school, which has an enrollment of approximately 4,000 students, engaged in a walk-out protest — joining international protests against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

“There are Palestinian Jews dying every day,” one student speaker said. “We came here for peace. We are not spreading hate today. We are here to help stop a genocide.”

Chants of “No more hiding, no more fear, genocide is crystal clear” were heard from across King Street. Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) said news media would not be allowed on school grounds during the walkout.

Most of the students returned to the school after the protest, though some left the campus.

“The protest was great,” one senior in a group of four told ALXnow. “We’re not going back today. We’re ditching school.”

Rabbi David Spinrad from the Beth El Hebrew Congregation stood across from the school with an Israeli flag.

“I’m an American and a Jew, and as an American, I respect the first amendment and people’s freedom of expression,” Spinrad said, “but that freedom of expression doesn’t extend to hate speech, it doesn’t include anti-semitism, which is far more nuanced, particularly in this situation than the vast majority of them have ever been educated around.”

Spinrad said he wants ACPS to ensure the protection of Jewish students at the school during the protests and would be interested to hear about the specifics of a ceasefire.

“If every one of the 248 hostages were immediately returned, if Hamas surrendered unconditionally, then I think a ceasefire is absolutely something that’s appropriate,” Spinrad. “But as long as Israel is fighting a state-sponsored terrorist organization that abuts the state of Israel, their responsibility is first and foremost to their citizens, including those 248 hostages.”

ACHS Executive Principal Alexander Duncan III notified parents via email on Wednesday afternoon that school staff have planned for a “peaceful and safe environment for our students.”

Duncan’s message is below:

It is our understanding that tomorrow (Thurs., Nov. 9, 2023) is a national day of protest related to current events in the Middle East. We have learned that there will be at least one student walkout at Alexandria City High School (ACHS) – King Street Campus that is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. We want to assure you that plans are in place as we work to ensure a peaceful and safe environment for our students.

As students exercise their right to free speech during the school day tomorrow, ACHS administrators and staff, in addition to Central Office staff, will be prepared and positioned to ensure that this walkout is conducted in a safe and respectful manner, with as little disruption to normal operations as possible. As stated in our Student Code of Conduct, we ask students to be kind, respectful and cooperative to prevent problems and solve problems in a peaceful and collaborative way.

For any student who has concerns about these ongoing events and wants to talk to a counselor or another trusted adult, there are resources in place. At ACHS, students can always reach out to a counselor or another Student Support Team (SST) member, administrator, or any trusted adult in the school if they are in need of help. Our students can also reach out to CrisisText and Crisis Link at any time, 24/7, through the contacts below:

  • Text: CONNECT to 85511
  • Call CrisisLink: 703-527-4077

We have collaborated with our Safety and Security Team to ensure that we have adequate security supports in place. The safety and security of our students and staff are of utmost priority.

Students also staged a walk-out protest earlier this year over the cancellation of lunchtime activities.

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story