Woodson Students Display their Activism in Walkout

Vy Nguyen, Op-Ed Section Editor

Woodson students marching in a walkout. Photo by Zainab Rentia.

When do they want it? Now.

What do they want? Justice.

As this rhythmic chant gradually floated past door number six and around the Woodson rock, arms of different shades intertwined into a unified front. Courage charged the march forward as students’ footsteps struck the sidewalk. It was as though they all suffered from the same perils and were tethered to the same fight: justice for Fairfax High School sophomore Ekran Mohamed.

On December 17, during Learning Seminar, the Woodson Muslim Student Association (MSA) spearheaded a student protest to support Mohamed, whose hijab was dislodged in an altercation three days prior. Since the sacred veil embodies the Islam faith and cultural pride, hundreds of students across Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) protested not only on Mohamed’s behalf, but also on behalf of all Muslims and their rights.

According to FCPS’s Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) guide, Regulation 2601.33 permits students to “exercise freedom of expression through speech, assembly [and] petition,” as well as “advocate change of any law, policy, or regulation.” As long as the protest is non-disruptive, the right to assembly is protected by both the SRR and Section 23.1-400.B of the Virginia Code, which prevents discrimination against student gatherings. 

Woodson MSA members.
Photo courtesy of Woodson MSA’s Instagram account.

Under these FCPS policies, in less than a day, the MSA immediately organized the march through various platforms, including word-of-mouth, social media promotion and communication with the Student Government Association (SGA). The MSA secretary, senior Hana Mahyoub, recalls staying up at midnight with her fellow officers to brainstorm and coordinate logistics. “[We] were in outrage that nobody was doing anything about it” she says. “It was the notion that [we knew we] had to do something especially as leader[s] in MSA.”

Although the protest was “completely last-minute” and planned through late-night group chats, its impact was long-lasting, resonating with both Muslim and non-Muslim students. Mahyoub says that the crowd shouting “hands off…my hijab” assured young Muslims like herself  “that [students] truly understand and care,” which is even more pertinent in a post 9/11 world. 

Amassing approximately 150 protestors, students marched a full lap with officers leading the chants and responders echoing them. Ending with a moment of silence, all protestors formed a circle of unity to commemorate and honor Mohamed and Muslim equality. 

“We did this. We got them here and they’re listening,” said

Woodson students standing in solidarity with Ekran in a walkout.
Photo courtesy of Hana Mahyoub.

Mahyoub after seeing the crowd join hands across the Woodson parking lot. “The [solidarity] is what made it worth so much.”

Protests may seem like a convenient opportunity to storm out of a boring class; however, according to Mahyoub, they ultimately allow allies to step into and march in the proverbial shoes of marginalized communities. For those who have misgivings about protesting, she encourages them to make a difference, even if it is only a “blip,” despite any potential consequences.

“[If you’re passionate about something,] you must be that person for yourself because no one else is going to do that for you,” says Mahyoub. “And if you sit around waiting, nothing is going to get done.”