On the afternoon of Friday, April 5 there were anti-abortion picketers outside of the bus lot and student parking lot.
The picketers are from an organization called Created Equal based outside of Columbus, Ohio.
“Our goal is to talk to highschool students about the issue of abortion,” said Evangeline Dunn, the media representative for the group on campus.
“We go to high schools because 300 teenagers every single day get abortions,” said Dunn.
According to the CDC in 2015, adolescents 15-19 years old accounted for 10.1% of all reported abortions (a little less than 7 abortions for every 1,000 pregnancies). For teenagers to have 300 abortion a day there would need to be approximately 42,857 teen pregnancies everyday.
Leesville student Maya Pointer, sophomore, feels like the point of the protest was lost on her peers.
“I understand that the protesters had an opinion, but I don’t understand why they would picket at a public school,” said Pointer. “No one really did anything besides look at pictures and then go on with their day,” she continued.
She recalled people on her bus barely commenting on the protest, instead talking about their days like they always do.
Nicole Rhoades, another Leesville sophomore, agrees with what Pointer said. “I don’t think it affected anybody at all, other than just being a minor inconvenience or annoyance on a Friday,” said Rhoades.
Dunn, however, disagrees. “People can say we’re not effective, but I actually talked to two young boys who kinda-sorta thought that abortion was okay, and they changed their minds,” said Dunn.
Both Rhoades and Pointer believe that starting a conversation about abortion with youth isn’t going to happen with protests. “I don’t really like those kind of protests for any problem,” said Pointer. She thinks protests are effective in changing legislature, but aren’t an accessible outlet for starting everyday conversations about people’s beliefs.
Getting close to students isn’t always an option for protesters at public schools who want to start a conversation, though.
“We’re not very welcomed at high schools,” said Dunn, explaining that when there is a public road you have a ten foot easement for protests at school campuses. “We just stay on our boundaries and show the buses the images, and sometimes we have a few conversations when students walk home.”
For protests held near campus by outside entities, Leesville relies on Officer Council, our School Resource Officer, to keep order. “In this case, if they were on the sidewalk that is public property so they have a right to be there,” explained Principal Ian Solomon.
“If someone comes on to campus without permission, I or one of my Assistant Principals would ask them to leave in the presence of Officer Council or another law Enforcement Officer,” said Solomon.
“I think where they were standing was very fair because I think there would have been a problem with other people if they were on school grounds, specifically at the front door or in front of students giving out pamphlets or something,” said Pointer.
The organization was in North Carolina for the whole week. “We’ve been going to college campuses throughout the day, abortion facilities in the morning, and then high schools during their let out time,” said Dunn.
On Thursday, April 9, Created Equal were at high schools in the Duke area.
“There was no advanced knowledge [of them coming to Leesville],” said Solomon, despite the organization claiming to have been visiting high schools in the area on the days prior. Whether or not the administrative team is anticipating a protest, they are trained on how to “ensure both student safety and the protection of first amendment rights during protests.”
Every protest is unique, and therefore may warrant a different type of response if a protest were to happen again. “The safety and order of the school community is at the core of any decision that is made,” said Solomon, regardless of the context of the protest.