A beloved Wilcox High School homecoming tradition became a flashpoint for environmental activism on Oct. 27 when Advanced Placement Environmental Studies students and their supporters physically blocked the passage of the student-made class floats at the annual homecoming parade.
Roughly 20 students and one or two faculty members—some carrying protest signs—temporarily prevented the four class floats from leaving campus.
“Those protesting are interested in cancelling the building of homecoming floats due to the amount of resources used and wasted. The school administration [is] committed to facilitating a meeting with the appropriate stakeholders in hopes of reaching a compromise about how homecoming floats will be handled at Wilcox moving forward,” wrote Wilcox Principal Kristin Gonzalez in a message to the Wilcox community, posted Oct. 27 on the school website: wilcox.schoolloop.com.
With police motorcycle escort, cars carrying the homecoming court members, class mascot, the marching band and the cheer and dance teams proceeded along Calabazas Boulevard as planned to Briarwood Elementary School, where children sitting outside on the grass viewed the parade. Only the four class floats never made it to Briarwood.
After intervention by Principal Gonzalez, the protestors finally did move aside to let the class floats drive onto the street. However, most of the police escort had moved on with the other parade vehicles and marchers; so for safety reasons, the police turned the class floats around to return to campus.
“As educators, we are challenged with balancing the first amendment’s right to freedom of speech and assembly with the safety of our students. We also have the responsibility to be mindful of community resources and relationships, such as police escorts, parents and families that have come to watch, and students from elementary schools that are affected in an event like this,” wrote Gonzalez.
The class float protest was the buzz of the bleachers at the homecoming football games. It also drew numerous comments in the court of public opinion on social media such as the Adrian C. Wilcox High School Alumni Facebook page.
A concerned parent of a student in the Environmental Studies class contacted this newspaper to make sure that the students’ side of the protest would be heard. The parent remained anonymous to protect her child’s identity.
The parent heard students at her home saying that they thought it would be a peaceful protest and were surprised that it turned negative with shouting. The students were not required to participate in the protest or given extra credit for doing so. The protest was one of three possible ways to participate in a class project called “Think Globally, Act Locally.”
Wilcox High School, 3250 Monroe Street, opened in 1961. The 2017 Homecoming parade wasn’t the first one to be disrupted.
“Sad story, in 1963 when Kennedy was killed, it was the first Wilcox Homecoming. A float had been built on Dad’s car & with everything cancelled due to the assassination, the car sat in our garage as a sad reminder of destroyed youth!” posted alumna Pat on Facebook.
A banished Wilcox tradition was also recalled—Slave Day.
“When I was at Wilcox our class stopped a tradition and I’m proud of us for it – it was called Slave Day. A person would stand up and talk about their strengths and someone would buy them for the day. Class of 90’s BSU fought to have that day cancelled and people groaned about the tradition ending. It was a change that needed to happen to move the school forward. As an adult I just can’t believe that tradition existed and I cringe every time I think about it,” posted alumna Shannon Bruce.
“We are confident that the events of today will spark meaningful conversations and learning opportunities for our staff and students,” wrote Gonzalez.
Because the protest is being investigated by the Santa Clara Unified School District, Public Information Officer Jennifer Dericco was able to provide only limited information for this story. Principal Gonzalez and a teacher who was contacted were not free to comment for publication.
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