AugsburgThe easiest way to irritate me is to not listen. Interrupt me. Talk over me. Ignore me. And apparently I’m not the only one.

Early this past week, a group of high school students at a local high school held a demonstration. Their school district, Hazelwood, like many districts is facing money problems. They’ve tackled it by cutting band and orchestra, reducing activity buses, not replacing teachers. Students and parents have tried to attend board meetings.  Comments are closed. Meetings are moved behind closed doors.  No one is listening.

Students came up with a way to be heard.  They went after the district where it would hurt – statistics. Two hundred students walked out of finals. One hundred refused to return to class and were suspended. The seniors couldn’t walk in the graduation ceremony, those with A+ Scholarships (2 years of college tuition) lost the scholarships, and student athletes were kicked off their teams.

Not surprisingly, the community raised a ruckus. Fine, fine, said the principal.  That guy there?  On the track and field team? He can compete for us, representing the school, on Saturday but not walk through graduation. I listened. Are you happy?

Oddly enough, no one really felt like he had listened. They pointed out that according to the student handbook the lowest possible punishment calls for detention. The highest suspension, but students must be informed of the reason and length of suspension in writing, they should have a chance to present their side of the story to the principal and the parents must be informed 24 hours in advance. Although the handbook calls for listening and communication, none of this happened.

The ACLU stepped up and the word lawsuit came into play. This, the principal heard. Suspensions are rescinded but the community is divided between those who think the kids are getting off easy and those who are relieved injustice has been curbed.

The whole situation reminds me of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8). She demanded that the unjust judge hear her. She eventually wore him down and received justice.

This protest was a long time in coming. The district has ignored parents and teachers.  They ignored students and the community. They refused to listen until the ACLU said “lawsuit.”

If you are one of the many prayerful who is working for social justice or educational opportunities in your community, pray for patience.  Pray for strength. Pray for listening ears. And while you pray, listen. It is the only way to hear.