Middle schoolers talk to OK rep. who disagreed with teacher walkout

Jordan D'Silva

Eighth graders Mary Brockhouse (left) and Sandhya Gollahalli (right) pose outside Rep. Bobby Cleveland’s office. The students approached Cleveland about his dissenting remarks against teachers walking out.

Two Oklahoma middle schoolers attending the Oklahoma teacher walkout Monday morning at the Oklahoma State Capitol approached Rep. Bobby Cleveland to talk about his remarks that teachers “should be in the classroom” instead of walking out.

Cleveland has been outspoken in his disagreement with the education funding bill that passed last Thursday, arguing the process was done “in the night.”

The two students, from Whittier Middle School in Norman heard about the remarks Cleveland made and decided to pay him a visit during the walkout.

“We had heard he said teachers should be in the classroom instead of here today,” said Mary Brockhouse, Whittier eighth grader. “He seemed like he had a negative attitude on it, that teachers shouldn’t be complaining about funding.”

Brockhouse and her classmate, Sandhya Gollahalli, engaged Cleveland, asking him about his views on education funding in Oklahoma.

“In reality, him and I both were on the same side,” Brockhouse said. “This funding shouldn’t be an issue.”

However, when Brockhouse decided to address his earlier comments regarding the teacher’s participation in the walkout, the tone changed.

Brockhouse told Cleveland that the teachers should not be in the classroom, but they also should not have to be fighting for funding.

“We shouldn’t have to worry about the funding our teachers are getting,” Brockhouse said. “We shouldn’t have to worry about the funding our future is getting.”

Cleveland listened politely, but did not engage substantively, instead applauding the way the students had presented their argument.

Ultimately, the students were left with mixed emotions. On one hand, they had stood their ground against an Oklahoma legislator, but they also felt that their argument was not taken seriously.

“The argument is still valid either way,” Gollahalli said. “Whether it came from me, an adult, from him, it doesn’t matter.”