RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — In a show of solidarity for slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, more than 230 students at Ramstein High School wore hooded sweatshirts or jackets to class Tuesday as part of a peaceful demonstration they called “Hoodies Up.”
The intent was to show that wearing a hoodie should not make a person appear threatening, said 17-year-old senior Caleb Guerrido, one of five students who came up with the idea of wearing hoodies to school.
Martin, 17, was shot Feb. 26 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman as he walked back to the townhouse of his father’s girlfriend in the gated community of Sanford. Zimmerman, 28, told police that Martin, who was unarmed, was wearing a dark hoodie and looked “suspicious.” He claimed that when he questioned Martin, the teen jumped him and that he shot him in self defense.
The incident has sparked a national controversy. Many are angry Zimmerman hasn’t been arrested.
Martin’s killing also sent ripples outside the U.S., where it triggered discussion in the seminar class of RHS math teacher Phillis Westmoreland-Allen.
Students debated what happened to Martin and why over three classroom periods, she said.
Guerrido and juniors Darnell Beckett and Tyree Hunter, sophomore Jason Davidson and senior Jonathan Teixeira then came up with the “Hoodies Up” idea, the students said.
Since wearing a hood is against the school dress code, the students had to get the OK for the event from RHS principal Greg Hatch.
Hatch, who approved the request on condition that they get permission from their classroom teachers, said he told them that hoodies aren’t allowed in school for safety and security reasons. If something happens in the hall and a student is wearing a hoodie, it might be hard to figure out who was involved, he said.
“We haven’t had a single complaint so far,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
Students used social media to help spread the word about wearing a hoodie Tuesday.
“We never expected it to get this big,” Hunter said.
Only a handful of teachers denied requests to wear hoodies in class, students said.
A few negative comments were posted to the event invitation on a Ramstein student Facebook page, said senior Iyana Hardy, 18, with some saying Martin should never have been in that neighborhood.
“We do know that there are two sides to a story,” Hunter said. “Trayvon Martin is not here to tell his story.”