MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Students from Twin Cities area high schools say they plan to join a walkout being organized by an anti-war group if the United States attacks Iraq.
Minneapolis South High School student Elianne Farhat, 18, says the walkout -- being organized by a University of Minnesota anti-war group -- is "motivating students to become active citizens, to voice their opinions in a nonviolent, appropriate manner."
Farhat estimated that 300 to 400 South students would leave school for a rally at the university the day after a war broke out. She said about 250 students already have pledged to participate.
Farhat said the U.S. government appears fixated on getting rid of Saddam Hussein because he's a bad guy. However, she said, "To get him out of there at the cost of thousands of innocent lives doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me."
South student Vanda Smrkovski, 17, named a dozen Twin Cities-area high schools where students are organizing to take part.
"If you get a lot of people to start thinking and questioning the status quo, then things will start changing," she said.
School officials are taking notice.
In Minneapolis, Superintendent Carol Johnson sent an e-mail message to South parents saying that students "cannot disrupt classes or the school," and that any student taking part in a walkout during school time will get an unexcused absence.
Students who walk out would converge on the university's campus at noon for a rally on the Northrop Mall, participate in teach-ins about the Iraqi conflict and then march to the Federal Building in downtown Minneapolis to join forces with other activists.
The protest is being organized by the University of Minnesota Coalition Against War on Iraq.
"We want to send a message to the Bush administration that if Bush wants to pursue a war for oil and disrupt and destroy the lives of the people in Iraq and the Middle East, we want to let Bush know that things won't proceed as normal here at home," said Ty Moore, a coalition organizer.
Moore said the coalition draws its members from a group called the Anti-War Committee and five campus organizations -- the Arab Student Association, Socialist Alternative, Students Against War, the university's Green Party and Students for Justice in Palestine.
Smrkovski said she disagrees with President Bush's strategy to wage war on Iraq because "I don't think it will create the safe world that he promises us."
In her statement, Johnson showed support for free speech and hoped that students will be given venues to share their thoughts about war.
"We hope teachers will create opportunities for students to share their views and concerns within the class time or offer opportunities for after-school discussion," Johnson said.
"We have communicated to all high school principals that while principals or schools cannot actively support students' decisions to hold a protest, principals are advised not to prevent students from protesting."
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