May 5, 2016

A teacher’s decision to allow students at Fairmont Elementary in El Cerrito to hold a protest during recess on Friday backfired, with students yelling “at any adults they encountered,” writing disparaging remarks on signs and “jumping on tables,” according to a letter to parents from the school’s principal.

A parent at the school anonymously sent the Richmond Standard a May 2 letter to parents by Principal Galen Murphy, posted in full below. The protest stemmed from concerns expressed by 5th and 6th grade students regarding the rules at recess time. Teachers attempted to foster the students’ desire to be heard and one agreed to allow the protest on the condition that it remain peaceful and that kids not be mean. The protest didn’t go as planned, Galen said.

“Students were yelling incoherently and running all over the schoolyard and using this idea of voicing one’s concerns as a time to yell at any adults they encountered and jumping on tables that are outside,” Galen wrote. “Some students wrote disparaging remarks about me on signs and others yelled at me and other adults/yard supervisors in the yard. In addition, other students were trying to take the state tests and were interrupted by the noise.”

The students said they wanted to hold the protest because they felt like they weren’t being heard. Since they had been studying teen activism in their Writing Workshop, it was seen by teachers as a potential teaching opportunity. After a teacher encouraged them to voice their concerns, students came to school on Friday with protest signs.

Prior to the protest, Galen said she and teachers had attempted and had struggled to have a focused classroom discussion about the students’ concerns. Still, one of the teachers later agreed to support the student protest, hoping for an educational experience.

Turned out the event was as much a teachable moment for teachers.

Galen said she intends to meet with representatives from each class to discuss their concerns and develop solutions.

The photo above is file art and was not used in the student protest

Fairmont letter May 2


  1. Why should we expect anything different when these young kids see how protests are handled by the adults? Whether it’s the Occupy protests, the Oscar Grant protests, the Black Lives Matter protests, the Trump protests or any number of other protests, when was the last time any of them stayed calm, peaceful and respectful? All too often the kids see protests on the news and they’re violent and anything but respectful. So they think that’s the way protests are supposed to be. Should we have expected anything different when we’ve shown them by our own examples that the way to be heard is through violence and destruction?

    Don Gosney | May 5th, 2016
  2. So can someone please report on what the recess rules are, and what the protestors are mad about? Thanks.

    susan smith | May 5th, 2016
  3. Sounds like every “protest” that adults do in the Bay Area. Aren’t we happy these kids have such good role models? They will make fine useful idiots some day for an aspiring politician.

    bill | May 9th, 2016

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.