High Point, Northwestern Students Stage Mass Protests

By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 13, 2006

Several hundred students at High Point High School in Beltsville and Northwestern High School in Hyattsville organized walkouts last week to show support for immigrant rights, a highly unusual occurrence in Prince George's County.

Most of the demonstrators were Hispanic, a reflection of the high Latino population in the county's northern sector. "We're not criminals!" one High Point student, echoed by others, shouted last Thursday from behind a chain-link fence along Powder Mill Road. "We are U.S.A., and we're not giving up!"

William Ritter , a regional assistant superintendent, said about 600 High Point students and 125 Northwestern students participated in the separate events on the day before spring break.

"At the close of the day, there were no incidents," Ritter wrote in an e-mail. "Zero. No injuries, no suspensions or disciplinary actions taken and no arrests. The media covered the events and students felt heard and respected. Everyone should be commended for their restraint and caring and the students for their willingness to cooperate and to operate within nonviolent and peaceful guidelines."

High Point Principal Scott Smith said it was the largest demonstration in his 14 years at the school.

More than 18,600 Latino students are enrolled in the county's public schools. That's 14 percent of the total enrollment. It's the second-largest subset of students in the county, after the black majority, and is the fastest-growing.

Awards Abound

In a public school system with 133,000 students and 9,000 teachers, here are some who stand out.

Three high school students have won National Achievement Scholarships worth $2,500 each, according to a county news release: Robyn Burgess of Oxon Hill High School, Letitia Cosbert of Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt and Abigail Phillip of Bowie High School. The competition, run by the National Merit Scholarship Corp., targets high-achieving African American students.

Burgess, a college-bound senior, also was honored this week as the county's "scholar of the week." She has a 4.38 grade-point average and a black belt in tae kwon do. Last week's top county scholar was Stephen Allsop of High Point High, another college-bound senior with a 4.29 GPA, who has been captain of the track and soccer teams.

Stephen McIntyre , a social studies teacher at Bowie High who goes by "Mr. Mac," was named the county's 2006 Christa McAuliffe Outstanding Teacher. McIntyre has taught for 31 years, the last 20 in Prince George's, and is the sponsor of the school's National Honor Society and a student group with an intriguing name: the Gentleman's Club.

Finalists for the award were reading teacher Khaisha J. Charles of Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School in Laurel and kindergarten teacher Alison Herron of Glenn Dale Elementary School.

McAuliffe, who died in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger explosion, taught in Prince George's from 1971 to 1978.

Denise Dunn , a fifth-grade teacher at Deerfield Run Elementary School in Laurel, was named the county's teacher of the year in a ceremony last week at Newton White Mansion in Mitchellville. Dunn, who has taught in the county since 1997, will now compete for state teacher of the year.

Finalists for the county honor were teachers Coit Hendley of Eleanor Roosevelt High, Bernadette Melvin of Carmody Hills Elementary School in Capitol Heights and Joy Swain of Doswell E. Brooks Elementary School in Capitol Heights.

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