The 2023 IMSA Walkout

IMSA Walk-Out '23-'24 | Source: Rell Photos

Five minutes into fifth mod on Friday, December 8, the quiet hallways roared with shuffling feet as students converged to the College and Academic Counselors Commons (CAC Commons). Having organized this action a week prior, students seized the opportunity to protest what they believed to be the administration’s shortcomings by orchestrating a two-hour walkout during the fifth and sixth mods. At its peak, the walkout included more than 200 student participants. A sea of students filled the CAC Commons, driven by a shared determination to combat bigotry and racism at IMSA. After student leaders took attendance to excuse walkout participants, the march began.

Starting from the CAC Commons, a long line of students marched the school’s many hallways, silently making rounds while brandishing signs advocating an end to bigotry and racism on campus. As students meandered through A wing, a murmur from at the front gradually evolved into loud chants taken up by the majority of participants:

Math Department, we are not stupid!

Bigotry needs consequences.

Real allies show up.

We are not scary, we are scared.

No justice, no peace!

With these chants, the students successfully got attention: faculty stepped out of their classrooms, and staff could no longer ignore the unfolding scene. As students concluded their final lap, they reconvened at the CAC Commons, continuing their chants denouncing bigotry and demanding unity at IMSA. A group of students emerged from the crowd, paper in hand, and read a list of demands they believed would make IMSA a better, safer place. Students sat in a large crowd, facing a small group of administrators and staff who came to hear their demands. 

The voices of the multitude amplified individual students as they shared their stories of homophobia, racism, and bigotry at IMSA:

Why are the victims punished?

Nurturing the human condition starts with you!

This was my dream school, and IMSA failed me.

We are children!

This is your job!

I don’t feel safe!

As students continued sharing their stories, a new question joined their chants: “Do you hear us?” 

Murmured responses from the administration coalesced into a collective “Yes.”

Chief People, Equity, and Culture Officer Nashwa Mekky appeared as a liaison for Academy leadership, acknowledging the administration’s faults. Unsatisfied, students continued their chants until IMSA’s Interim Principal, Dr. Angela Rowley, approached to express solidarity with the students despite being hobbled by two broken ankles. Dr. Rowley acknowledged the administration’s failure to address bias and pledged to listen and find solutions, emphasizing the need for collaboration with students.

IMSA students in confrontation with school administration. | Source: Rell Photos.

 Students now faced a choice: end the demonstration or continue. The painful stories moved students and administrators alike, and chants persisted, demanding change, especially greater accountability for community members who harm their peers and students. A student in the crowd called for the leaders present to “Read our list!” As Dr. Rowley, Dr. Mekky, and Dr. Adrienne Coleman, IMSA’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, stepped forward, they stood within a circle of students, reading the list of demands together.

As the walkout concluded, student organizers thanked participants and announced an assembly on December 11 during the Support and Engagement period to discuss plans for change.

The aftermath of this walkout has thus far not been straightforward. Students shared footage on social media, reigniting discussions on the blackatisma Instagram page. Alums and parents also engaged in debates online, with some expressing pride in the students’ bravery and others critiquing their methods. The walkout undeniably garnered the attention of the entire IMSA community, shedding light on long-standing issues and putting the onus on IMSA’s administration, faculty, staff, and student community to create meaningful change.

You can find the student protestors’ list of demands here:

Download (PDF, 62KB)

About the Author

David Dickson
I am from a noble village in Illinois. You might not have heard of it, but it is called Chicago. I enjoy writing, listening to different types of music, computer games, and singing. Everywhere.

2 Comments on "The 2023 IMSA Walkout"

  1. Woa, I graduated IMSA, and was wondering was there an inciting incident or are these protests just the cumulative shortcomings of administration?

  2. Mi hija siempre me ha compartido tanto lo positivo como lo negativo, incluso Ella fue digamos Victima de algún profesor racista…pero mi pregunta, Y AHORA QUE SIGUE?, espero como padre que SE haga algo, y que la lectura de las historias los haga empaticos.

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