‘Save Our School:’ Clay High School students protest closure with walkout

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.-- A school bell rings at 11:15 each morning at Clay High School, but Thursday, that bell signaled the start of a student walkout. Dozens protested the imminent closure of their school.

“Clay is important to the community. Like, really important,” said Clay Freshman Kay Anna Ellis. “A lot of students, they feel like this is a home to them, and they can really be themselves and enjoy the environment here.”  

Students are devastated. Some are now unable to join generations of Clay graduates in their families.  

“My whole family graduated from here, I wanted to graduate from here,” Ellis said. “And now I can’t because the school’s closing.”  

“Clay is like a traditional school, your parents went here, you go here, and then you send your siblings on,” said Clay Junior Starr Harris. “And knowing that can’t happen is just sad.”  

Others are unable to continue in Clay’s arts programs or athletics.  

“I wanted to go to Clay because I love the arts and everything about it,” said Clay Freshman Quinn Walker. “And I just felt so welcomed by everyone there.”

"I came here because I want to be a graphic designer, and they have a beautiful graphic design class, a wonderful teacher, wonderful classroom, and I don't want to leave that," said Clay Sophomore Zofia.  

“I’m a four-sport athlete, and your junior and senior years are the most important years for recruiting for college,” said Clay Sophomore Maliya Freeman. “And with Clay shutting down, my junior year is going to suck.”

And many are worried about the disruption to their high school career and feel their voices haven't been heard.

“Nobody listens to us,” said Clay Sophomore Victoria Fanin. “Nobody’s hearing us. It’s like everybody put a brick wall up and said ‘deal with it, get over it.’ And it’s not right.”

“Yes, we are kids. We are 18 and younger. But at the same time, we do have voices,” said Clay Senior, Desiree Boone, “and I feel like the board and the people who made that decision to shut us down do not care about our feelings. They don’t care about how we feel in this situation.”  

In response to Thursday’s walkout, SBCSC sent the following statement to ABC57:  

This afternoon, a number of Clay High School students chose to participate in a ‘walkout’ protest of our School Board of Trustees' vote to close their school as recommended by the district’s Facilities Master Plan. Those students who took part in the walkout were respectful of one another and demonstrated peacefully and without disruption to those who remained in class.

The South Bend Community School Corporation respects the voices of all students and stakeholders. In the days and weeks ahead, our district will continue to facilitate conversations with students, staff, and families surrounding the coming transition for Clay High School.

Additional safety measures were in place in advance of the protest to ensure the safety of all students.

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