East High student protest prompts meeting with lawmaker

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WICHITA, Kansas – East High School students called lawmakers last Friday in Topeka to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 56.

The bill would allow teachers to be prosecuted for distributing materials some might consider offensive.

Now, their efforts are catching the attention of lawmakers and other students and teachers across the state.

“Immediately, when we became aware of the bill, we took action. In fact, our class took a group picture, and that’s really what got this started,” said student Trevor Mahan.

The bill inspired students to organize a phone bank on their lunch hour.  Students called state lawmakers to voice their displeasure.

“It just grew. We got about 100 people within our own school calling people, and as well at other schools, then another 20 at another school, it just kept growing,” Mahan said.RELATED LINK | Track the progress of Senate Bill 56

Their efforts prompted a lunch time meeting between a lawmaker and a USD 259 lobbyist Monday.

“They went about it in a really nice process and allowed us to be educated fully, but we were still a little bit shocked about how much backlash there was to this,” said student Monica Ochoa.

“The overall tone of the discussion, especially with the state representative, seemed to be almost annoyed at what we did,” said student Andrew Figueiredo.

The students say they were in English class reading the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain when the Senate bill discussion came up, quickly turning a literature lesson into one about government.

“We really want to take control of our education, and it’s something that we didn’t get to vote to choose our representatives, but this decision directly affects us, and it doesn’t affect necessarily the people that voted on it,” said student Abbi Faflick.

The teens say this experience has inspired them to start a non-partisan political group at the high school for students to meet and talk about political issues that affect them.

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