In response to the shooting death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin last month, William Penn High School students are speaking out… not with their words, but with their clothes.
Dozens of students donned hoodies Friday, staging a silent demonstration calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the 17-year-old, he says, in self-defense. Martin was wearing a hoodie at the time.
“This is about American rights,” said William Penn senior Warren Veney Jr., who co-organized the hoodie demonstration.
“A lot of people get murdered… but they can’t find the killer sometimes. But this time the killer admitted it and they’re not doing anything about it. It should’ve been a speedy trial just from there when they said that they committed a murder.”
Known as “the voice of William Penn sports,” because he reads the school’s morning sports announcements, Veney says he and classmate Charise Adams came up with the idea Sunday night.
“We went to church and both of our churches did a hoodie thing where we could wear our hoodies to church. So Sunday night on Twitter we were like tweeting each other and then Sunday we came up with the plan,” Veney said.
One problem — school rules ban hoodies.
“Monday when I was going through my announcements I walked to our assistant principal… asked him what he thought about it and he relayed that message to our head principal Dr. Jeffrey Menzer, and later on that day, they called me in and we got the okay, so it was like really exciting and really great and we just got the word out,” said Veney.
Through Twitter, Facebook, text messaging and word-of-mouth, Veney says most of the student body learned the school would turn a blind eye Friday to hoodies in the building.
“They were not going to be chanting and carrying signs… they’re just going to be going about their day like they do every day. And [Warren] assured us that it was not meant to disrupt the school, that it was just their way of speaking on behalf of family and the situation that’s occurring down in Florida,” said Dr. Menzer in explaining the school’s granting an exception to the rule.
Dr. Menzer praised his students’ involvement in civic and social issues on a national scale.
“It’s something that we’re not taking a position on, but the students have a right to speak out,” Menzer said.
Even if it means breaking the rules for one day.