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Students skip school for anti-Bush rally


By Grant Segall, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Taking a page from their parents' scrapbooks, some students in Greater Cleveland and around the country walked out of school Wednesday to denounce the grown-ups' government.

Several dozen youths converged on Public Square at noon to help scores of old-timers demand an end to the Bush administration.

"My generation is going to be the ones running the country someday," said Sara James, a junior at Brush High School in Lyndhurst. "If we don't get involved now, there'll be no one to speak for us later."

The nationwide protests were organized by a coalition called World Can't Wait.

In Cleveland, students and grown-ups took turns at the microphone to blast the Iraqi invasion, the faltering economy, recent indictments of Republican leaders, and more.

James Levin, former head of the Cleveland Public Theater, reminisced about leading a walkout at Shaker Heights in 1970 after Ohio National Guardsmen killed four youths during Vietnam War protests at Kent State University.

"With so many of you here under 25 years old," said Levin, "I feel more optimistic about the future than I have in years."

The crowd of roughly 200 later marched around town and briefly blocked traffic. Police said they made no arrests. Some students skipped a full day of school. Others walked out in time for the rally.

Unless parents fib about the reasons, the absences are being recorded as unexcused. The consequences vary for different students at different schools.

Officials said first offenders at Shaker Heights High School would simply miss class work, which their teachers could let them make up. But students at Valley Forge High School, Parma Heights, were warned on Wednesday that first offenders would be suspended for three days each.

Protestors said they would pay the price to wake up their country.

"I've never skipped school before," said Erick Veenstra, a freshman from Cleveland Heights High School who roller-bladed downtown. "One day is worth it to get out Bush."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
gsegall@plaind.com, 216-999-4187.

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