Case Studies of Parent Pledge Movements Involving Political Support
There was very little available information explicitly stating student movement influence on parental political action. However, I was able to find three case studies where students under 18 lead political movements that strongly influenced their communities as well as placed pressure on government leaders.
1964: Mississippi Freedom Schools
During the Civil Rights Movement, activists established Freedom Schools to empower black students. In Mississippi, at least 41 schools operated in the summer of 1964, with 2,500 to 3,000 students mostly concentrated between the ages of 10 and 18. At least 14 schools published their own newsletters that were distributed throughout their local communities and filled with articles from students "who challenged their elders into action and resolved to fight for equality the rest of their lives."
Attendance at the Freedom Schools was entirely voluntary, and thus a political act itself, but students went further to become activists and leaders. They attended meetings, canvassed for voters, and wrote letters to government leaders like the Mississippi governor and President Johnson. They developed a program to help adults register to vote, participated in protest marches, organized sit-ins, and eventually guided the direction of local protests.
1968: East Los Angeles Walkouts
In March 1968 East Los Angeles, over 1,000 Latino high school students staged walkouts in the Los Angeles Unified School District to protest educational neglect, igniting a protest that spread to 15 schools.
These students were outraged by a school environment that encouraged and expected dropouts, offered a majority of shop classes with little focus on academics and with apathetic teachers, failed to provide college advice or encouragement, ignored Mexican-American culture and history, and had overcrowded, neglected facilities.
After a week of protests, the school board agreed to meet with the students, parents, and teachers, but used lack of funding as an excuse for the terrible educational conditions. Students continued their protest, and a teacher was fired for his involvement while 13 students were charged with "conspiracy to disturb the peace." The students staged sit-ins at the district office and the teacher was reinstated and the charges dropped.
Other teachers found it a "soul-searching time." One teacher, Gerald Richer, said, ""We didn't expect (Latino students) to go to college. But the walkouts changed the expectations of teachers. We re-evaluated ourselves." Another teacher, Ray Ceniceroz, said, "We feel disturbed and ashamed that these kids are carrying out our fight. We should have been fighting for these things as teachers and as a community."
2010: United We Dream
In 2010, the DREAM Act movement was a national youth-led grassroots movement mobilized by undocumented immigrant youth activists (DREAMers.)
Through the efforts of these young activists (many as young as high schoolers) to change racist stereotypes and propaganda about immigration by creating a narrative humanizing immigrants and by staging protests, the decade-old DREAM Act reached Congress for the first time in 2010.
The United We DREAM organization, a national network of youth-led immigrant rights organizations, placed enormous pressure on senators through actions like 77,000 phone calls to senators in a day.
Youths sat-in at senators' offices, staged hunger strikes, and organized public demonstrations, gaining the attention and support from government officials like Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
They also came forward and publicly identified themselves, risking deportation and criminal charges, but also putting a "public face to their suffering" and creating a culture shift in immigrant communities to inspire others to come forward as well.
These case studies are a part of a long history of youth activism in the US that affected their communities and society, politically and socially.