'Minors Do Have A Voice' In Anti-Curfew Push
Students find civic awakening amid campaign to quash controversial proposal.
After he gets home from cross country practice, Rafeh Quershi, 16, has hours of homework to complete from his five AP classes at Walter Johnson High School. Often, Quershi finishes around 11 p.m., after which he goes on a run to stay in shape.
“It’s really hectic, but that’s the academic environment Montgomery County has,” Quershi said. “There already aren’t enough hours in the day to finish what we need to do. They can’t tie our hands up even more.”
Quershi aired his concerns to the Montgomery County Council Tuesday at its public hearing on a proposed teen curfew. He attended the hearing with three of his 16-year-old friends -- guys who enjoy getting a hamburger at McDonald’s late at night just because they can. If passed, the curfew would ban youths 17 and under from being in public places after 11 p.m. during the week and after midnight on weekends.
Around 30 students and several parents attended Tuesday's hearing.
“The bill is discriminatory, it’s poorly written and it doesn’t seem particularly enforceable or a good use of police forces,” said Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School student Colin Versteeg, 16. “I hope that we are able to influence the County Council and help them make a better decision that doesn’t involve infringing on youth rights.”
The campaign is proving to be a political touchstone for county youth, thousands of whom have rallied against the proposal online. Yesterday’s hearing was the first chance for teens to make their case before county leaders who will decide the curfew’s fate.
“I think the meeting was a fantastic success,” said Abigail Burman, 17, who created the Stand Up to the Moco Youth Curfew Facebook page. “We had so many people come out, so many people testifying: parents, concerned citizens, students, student athletes. I think it just shows how wide the opposition to this curfew is.”
Before the hearing, Burman passed out “Protest the Curfew” stickers and voter registration forms for students who will be eligible to vote in 2012.
“We wanted to also show that we’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the next election,” said the Board of Education's student member Alan Xie, who has come out against the curfew. “One of the things that happens a lot of times is kids get written off as being immature or not knowing what’s best for them. We’re trying to say our movement is educated and mature.”
For their next step, Burman and other student organizers plan to protest the bill at 7p.m. Friday in front of the Regal Majestic Cinemas in Silver Spring. They also hope to meet again with council members.
“It’s really punishing the majority to single out a minority,” said Bella Umberger, 16. “I hope people will learn that minors do have a voice and that we do have an interest in what’s at stake here.”