- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Schools across Northern Virginia endured a second day of walkouts by hundreds of students protesting federal legislation that would crack down on illegal aliens.

About 400 students holding signs and flags from their home countries demonstrated yesterday in front of Freedom High School in Woodbridge, Va., said Phil Kavitz, a spokesman of Prince William County Public Schools. About 100 students from Woodbridge High School and about 60 from C.D. Hylton High School joined the protest.

About 150 students and community members had protested at Freedom on Monday.

“Kids were holding up their signs and chanting,” Mr. Kavitz said. “At 11:30, they ended their demonstration and dispersed very peacefully.”

About 100 students in Fairfax County and several in Arlington also walked out of classes.

Twenty to 30 students walked out of Stuart High School in Falls Church at about 9 a.m., said Fairfax County Public Schools spokesman Paul Regnier. Some returned when ordered by school officials, and those who left were notified that they were in violation of school rules, he said.

School officials said the students reportedly walked to Arlington and picked up what one official said “seemed like millions” of students from Wakefield, Yorktown and Washington-Lee High Schools along the way. Arlington County Police drove alongside the students during their 3-hour march to ensure their safety along some narrow streets. Police estimated that the number of marchers peaked at 200.

Dozens of Annandale High School students, eighth-graders at Edgar Allan Poe Middle School and some students from Washington-Lee High School also protested on Monday.

“I think it was clear that the purpose is they were protesting against immigration bills before Congress,” Mr. Regnier said. “We believe in students’ ability to express their views, [but] I think the issue here is of who has responsibility for the welfare of the kids.

“If the parents want to write notes to excuse them, that’s one thing,” he said. “In this case, the kids are at school, so the schools are responsible. If the kids are not in school, it’s the parents.”

The local rallies mirrored those in California, Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit and Yakima, Wash., where thousands of students walked out of classes, ignoring rain and campus lockdowns to protest immigration legislation that they see as an attack on Hispanic rights.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation late Monday that clears the way for millions of undocumented workers to seek U.S. citizenship without having to leave the country first.

The committee also voted down proposed criminal penalties on people found to be in the country illegally. It approved a program allowing temporary entry for 1.5 million workers seeking jobs in the agriculture industry.

The next step is the full Senate, where Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, is negotiating with other senators on how to handle the committee’s bill and his own proposal, which focuses more on punishing employers who hire undocumented workers.

Yesterday morning, 2,610 students had left 23 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Students carrying flags marched through the streets and along freeway ramps. In the 728,000-student school district, about 26,000 students walked out on Monday, at a cost of more than $500,000 in state attendance funds.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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