Tolman HS students told to return

The Providence Journal, page B1 – May 15, 1974

400 students from Tolman High School in Pawtucket went on strike against a proposal the restructure the class schedule for the coming year. It would go from seven 40-minute periods a day to six 53-minute classes. Students raised concerns about how this new extended schedule would affect seniors trying to complete additional course credits and students intending to work after school hours.

The strike, which was planned over the course of a week-and-a-half, resulted in an absence of about 43% of the student body.


The principal threatened to suspend the students involved, but the assistant superintendent was going to speak with him about letting the students off with a warning.


The student leaders of the strike encouraged their peers to return to classes following the demonstration.


Featured Image: 1974 Tolman High School Yearbook, Cover


Students Warned of Suspension

The Providence Journal, page 1 – May 6, 1970

Providence high school students left classes in the middle of the day to join a protest downtown against US intervention in Cambodia.

Groups of students from Classical and Central High Schools met with the superintendent to discuss their plans to demonstrate and the potential consequences. The school district leader’s response was:

“The issue is that the public school system is here to provide education and that means to be in school.”

He went on to say:

“We will no longer accept student walkouts. Any student who leaves the schools will be suspended for a minimum of two weeks and, after that time, will not be allowed to return unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.”

When spreading the word about the demonstration, student leaders reminded their peers of the looming threat of suspension if they did participate in the walkout so everyone was aware of the possible repercussions.

177 Classical students signed petitions showing their support of the walkout.

One student representative said:

“We feel war is wrong. We have a moral hate for war. We feel that the protest of the war in Cambodia and Vietnam is more important than the two weeks of zeroes we would get from being suspended.”

The student leaders discussed their plans for the walkout and the potential consequences with an attorney from the RI affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Strikes Urged at 3 High Schools

The Providence Journal, page 1 – May 8, 1970

200 students from 12 secondary schools in Providence, with representatives from Hope, Mt. Pleasant, Classical, and Central High Schools and the surrounding area met to hold a vote to boycott classes.

Students passed out leaflets calling for a strike on Hope High School property and encouraging students to show up at the State House demonstration later that day.

Classical High School students were also encouraged to stay out of school, even without parent permission. Without written consent from an adult, the punishment for students is one day of suspension. The superintendent said:

“While the students’ conviction should be represented, the primary issue for me to consider is that the Providence public schools are for the use of all the people and therefore primary responsibility is to operate schools for the purpose of education.”

The was a rally held in the Brown University campus for high school students in favor of a strike to gather before the greater community-wide demonstration.

Student staged a sit-in during the meeting with the superintendent to discuss walk-out consequences and drafted the following:

“We, the undersigned, demand

  1. The end to the two-week suspension ruling.

  2. The substitution of detention during school with no loss of academic credit for non-academic offenses.

  3. We censure Dr. Briggs (supt) for his lack of cooperation with students concerning immunity for students who are absent on Friday.”

A student leader at Classical added:

“We’ll challenge this idea of suspension if they try to suspend us.”

And another young person commented: 

“A student without such [parental] permission who was suspended for missing school to go to the rally would be punished academically for something political.”

Pawtucket Students Plan School Sit-In

The Providence Journal, page 19 – October 1, 1969

Students at Tolman High School in Pawtucket staged a sit-in in the principal’s office to show the school administration that they wanted their voices heard. The day before, 200 students walked out of school to protest rules against possessing tobacco products on the property.


School leaders offered the protesting students a deal that their parents would not be informed of their behavior if they served two weeks of detention. Most student did not accept this arrangement.

Students responded:

“I believe we shouldn’t be punished.”

“The teachers are not punished when they strike.”


Girl awaits decision on expulsion for protest

The Providence Journal, page C1 – May 13, 1982

The Tiverton superintendent decided to close a girls’ lavatory at Tiverton High School after allegedly coming across cigarette butts and empty beer bottles in the space.

In response, a group of girls stormed the boys’ lavatory to protest the closing of their own. The students involved were faced with suspension as punishment for their disorderly conduct.

These student leaders also circulated a petition that got over 283 signatures to share with the School Committee, but were unable to present it at the closed meeting.