On Wednesday morning, instead of heading to campus, Palo Alto High School special-education teacher Laura Bricca went to the home of a fellow staff member for a "women's brunch." They were among about 30 Paly teachers absent from their classrooms in observance of Wednesday's national "Day Without a Woman" protest, meant to highlight both the economic value of women and barriers they face.
The day of action — coinciding with International Women's Day — is an outgrowth of the Women's March on Washington, a national activism effort organized in protest of President Donald Trump. On Wednesday, the group called on women to take the day off, avoid shopping for the day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses) or to wear red in solidarity.
The strike recognizes "the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system -- while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity," the Women's March website states. Similarly, the group organized a "Day Without Immigrants" protest in February.
At Paly, 35 teachers and staff members are absent Wednesday in addition to five who are out sick and five who are off campus for professional development, according to district communications officer Jorge Quintana. (The average number of teachers out on a regular day at Paly is 10 to 12, he said.) All 31 classrooms without teachers are covered by substitute teachers.
Paly journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki told the Weekly she took the day off to make a statement in protest of the president's stance on women and women's rights, particularly his recent offer to maintain federal funding for Planned Parenthood if they stop providing abortions.
Her absence is a "statement that women's rights need to be respected," she said.
Recognizing it is a teacher's role to be politically neutral, she said she plans to explain to her students when she returns that participating in the day of action was a personal decision.
"Teachers have to be impartial, but we do have the right to an opinion," she said. "We have First Amendment rights and I took advantage of those rights."
Paly Principal Kim Diorio said many staff and students are wearing red and that she has been part of many "great conversations around campus" on Wednesday.
"A teachable moment for all," she wrote in an email to the Weekly.
Paly is the only Palo Alto Unified school that has been significantly impacted by the Day Without a Woman protest, according to the district. Gunn High School Principal Denise Herrmann said as of 10 p.m. on Tuesday night, the school did not have any absences that had not been approved weeks in advance.
Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association, said the teachers union sent a message out suggesting teachers could wear red in solidarity.
Across the country, striking teachers led some schools to cancel classes for the day, including in Virginia, New York, Maryland and North Carolina.