The Student News Site of East Lansing High School

Portrait

The Student News Site of East Lansing High School

Portrait

The Student News Site of East Lansing High School

Portrait

Students join parents in walkout demonstration at middle school

Students+join+parents+in+walkout+demonstration+at+middle+school

At 7:30 a.m. Sep 29, MacDonald Middle School parents stood with signs on the corner of Burcham and Hagadorn, protesting the recent suspension of MMS gym teacher Dennis Petrowitz, parents chose to stand outside of the middle school to demonstrate against “the continual harm of our Brown and Black students” in the district.

At the height of their protest, six parents made up the group protesting outside of the middle school. Passing cars honked in support, as some thanked the parents for standing against injustice. While Petrowitz was originally scheduled to return to work on Friday, Sep. 29 after a five-day suspension, his suspension was made “indefinite” on Sep. 28 in an email from Principal Amy Martin to middle school families.

Brandi Branson, organizer of the parent walkout and parent of ELHS students said, “The teacher that was suspended was allowed to not only do this one time four months ago, but allowed to do it a second time and only allowed a five-day suspension and we will no longer stand for that.” “We will no longer stand for the mistreatment of our brown and black students.”

Around 8:10 a.m., middle school students started their walkout in front of the middle school. Martin and Associate Principal, John Atkinson, held open doors for students who chose to demonstrate, and they were soon joined by teachers as well. One of the students who joined the parents before the walkout began was Aniyah Adams (8), who was a student in Petrowitz’s sixth hour during last week’s events. 

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“All I do remember is [Mr. Petrowitz] just yelling at us and getting in kids’ faces,” Adams said. “He was just very aggressive.” 

By 8:16 a.m., students started to run from the middle school to join the parent demonstration down the street. Within minutes, several more students began running down Hagadorn Road to the north of the school grounds. Students got as far as Ridgewood Drive when teachers and administrators started to run after them and gather them back.

As students were returning to school grounds, parents cheered them on and began handing them signs. Parents then went to the corner adjacent to the bus loop north of the soccer field. 

Students were guided back towards the building, but some stayed outside. Just as the crowds began to disperse, more students began to pour out of the doors to join their classmates outside. 

Toward the end of the walkout, ELHS students joined middle schoolers to show their support. Many of them had Petrowitz in previous years, and they felt the need to express their distress with the situation.

“I think we’re all here today just to show proof that we have a voice and that we deserve to be heard,” Aris Hernandez-Dodge (11) said. “He’s been doing this since I was in sixth grade, I’m not surprised but I’m a little disappointed.”

Community member Tara Miller, who is a parent of a middle schooler and attended the walkout, wants to see action taken against Petrowitz.

“I don’t think anyone has our children’s best interests at heart,” Tara Miller, a parent, said. “And we’re not going to keep accepting it and allowing it.”

By 8:16, students started to run from the middle school to join the parent demonstration down the street. Within minutes, several started to run on Hagadorn Road to the north of the school grounds. Students got as far as Ridgewood Drive when teachers and administrators started to run after them and gather them back.

As students were returned to school grounds, parents cheered them on and began handing them signs. Parents then went to the corner adjacent to the bus loop north of the soccer field. 

Students were guided back towards the building, but some stayed outside. Just as the crowds began to disperse, on two sides of the middle school, more students began to pour out of the doors to join their classmates outside. 

Toward the end of the walkout, ELHS students joined middle schoolers to show their support. With many of them having Petrowitz in previous years, they felt the need to express their distress with the situation.

“I think we’re all here today just to show proof that we have a voice and that we deserve to be heard,” Aris Hernandez-Dodge (11) said. “He’s been doing this since I was in sixth grade. I’m not surprised but I’m a little disappointed.”

Martin was contacted by Portrait for comment hours after the walkout and has not provided a comment. The story will updated to reflect her comments when they are sent. This is a developing story.

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Ky Bey
Ky Bey, Social Media Editor
Ky Bey is a member of the class of 2024 and the Social Media Editor for Portrait. This is her second year on Portrait as a senior. Ky's favorite thing about journalism is how different writing styles blend with journalistic rules. When she's not in the newsroom, Ky enjoys baking, listening to music, reading, and designing.
Joelle King
Joelle King, Photography Editor
Joelle King is in the class of 2025 and is a Photography Editor for Portrait.  This is her second year on staff as a junior.  Joelle's favorite thing about journalism is telling stories through video. When she is not in the newsroom, Joelle loves competitive dancing and reading.

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