Youth group to lobby schools

Andersonstown News, Sat. 15th March 2003

The campaign group Youth Against the War has written to two West Belfast schools where pupils walked out durng last week's anti-war protest to ask them not to impose any punishments on students.

The March 5 walkouts were organised by Youth against the War and invovled more than 10,000 school students across the North.

Gary Mulcahy, Youth Against the War organiser, has called on schools across the North not to impose any punishment.

"We are taking up all the cases of students who have been punished for exercising their democratic right to protest. In the case of La Salle and St Mary's we have written to the principals asking them to withdraw any planned punishments over the St Patrick's Day holiday. The students only wanted to make their voices heard in opposition to the coming carnage in Iraq."

"We did have a favourable response to our letter from La Salle who said they would not be imposing any punishments. Hopefully, other schools across the north will follow suit."

At St Mary's Grammar school, where students are being asked to come into school on the Friday of the St Patrick's Day holiday to do dentention, Vice Principal Fergus Woods said it was a health and safety issue.

"On any occassion when a pupil in fifth year or below wants to absent themselves from school they must have parental permission and produce a release note. If a parent wanted a child out of school, we would have preferred the parent to come to the school. This type of protest is a potential risk to health and safety and in fact one pupil suffered quite a serious injusry in the course of this walkout."

No one was available for comment at La Salle.

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