Hunterdon Central 'deeply distressed' by behavior at abortion rights rally

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RARITAN TOWNSHIP – The Hunterdon Central Regional High School District is "taking all appropriate disciplinary actions" after a demonstration on abortion rights last week became heated.

According to the district, students gathered on May 16 for the "unsanctioned event" organized on social media, coming together between classes when out on campus.

As a result, a large crowd gathered very quickly, according to the statement. Students on both sides of the issue met near an athletic field and not all participated in a civil manner, the district said. A video taken at the rally showed some teens tearing down signs, shoving each other and involved in screaming matches.

In the video, images show hundreds of students involved in the event. Hunterdon Central High School has an enrollment of about 2,500 students.

Abortion has been at the forefront of issues concerning the nation since a U.S. Supreme Court draft ruling concerning Roe v. Wade was leaked May 12. Since then, a new burst of rallies has been held throughout the country on both sides of the issue.

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"We are deeply distressed by the behavior between students who engaged in verbal and, in a very small number of instances, physical aggression during this gathering," the district’s statement said. "Youth demonstrations have a long history of educating students toward civic mindedness; however, the behavior in this demonstration was disrespectful and distressing enough to be an affront to that tradition of peaceful assembly and protest."

The district called upon adults to reflect on their own actions and set appropriate examples for students.

"This demonstration brings us to serious reflection on the procedures we have for managing such events and, most especially, on the examples that we, as adults, are setting for our children," the district’s statement said. "The actions that they see taken by adults impact the actions that they believe to be appropriate and acceptable. As we move to correct their behavior, we must work together to offer better object lessons. We must provide outlets for expression, but these need to be exercised with care, respect, and dignity for ourselves and one another. We need to teach these lessons of civil discourse to our children in much more deliberate ways, especially in these times."

The district said that at the high school, they will "continue to insist on respect in all civic and political processes and hope that this contributes to a future in which there is better and more constructive civic participation."

email: cmakin@gannettnj.com

Cheryl Makin is an award-winning features and education reporter for MyCentralJersey.com, part of the USA Today Network. Contact: Cmakin@gannettnj.com or @CherylMakin.

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Hunterdon Central 'deeply distressed' after abortion rights rally