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Protest aimed to protect draft-age teens

With five of her classmates, Courtney Hendron protests a potential war in Iraq across the street from Langley Middle School Monday. The girls skipped out of class at 8:45 a.m. to voice their opinion. - Matt Johnson
With five of her classmates, Courtney Hendron protests a potential war in Iraq across the street from Langley Middle School Monday. The girls skipped out of class at 8:45 a.m. to voice their opinion.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

The protesters started with a timid glance out the side door at Langley Middle School.

With signs and placards rolled under their coats or folded to fit in backpacks, a group of about eight eighth-grade girls was determined to cut class Monday to speak their minds.

They did just that, but their demonstration protesting a possible war in Iraq was possibly one of the shortest protests on record. After all, there was class to go to.

In a move with which their principal sympathized yet could not allow, the group of girls spent about 10 minutes across the street from Langley Middle School waving signs and yelling at drivers to think about the nation's policy on Iraq. They were there, the girls said, to protect older siblings and friends from fighting in a war they do not want.

"Because they're going to start drafting," said LMS student Sara Lee.

The protest was not something the girls saw as out of line or even particularly disobedient, based on what they have learned all their lives and even in middle school. Even as LMS Principal Greg Willis asked the girls to return to class, Dani Calkins said she just wanted a few minutes to speak out.

"We were brought up to solve problems with words," she said.

Calkins also said she was worried her 20-year-old brother might be drafted for military service if the U.S. goes to war. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., introduced a measure last week that would make military service compulsory.

The girls were hardly belligerent in their action. After some encouragement from Willis, they returned to class. Willis said that while he agreed with the girls' message, he could not allow them to protest during school hours.

"I have no problem with the concept," he said.

The group might have been more difficult to dislodge if more had shown up. Protester Courtney Hendron said a number of students who had agreed to be part of the protest stayed in class.

"A few of them chickened out," she said.

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