South Elgin students march in solidarity with Ferguson, Mo.

About 350 South Elgin High School students organized a march Thursday in solidarity with "Black Lives Matter" - a national movement advocating equal treatment of minorities by law enforcement.

The students' march was prompted by the Aug. 9 police shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, and the July death of another unarmed black man, Eric Garner, who was put in a chokehold by a white New York police officer during an arrest. Both events have led to widespread protests nationwide.

South Elgin High students marched from the school's commons area to the auditorium during the 10th passing period. They chanted "Hands up. Don't shoot!" as they walked through the hallways.

The march was organized by a student who requested and received permission from Principal James Edwards.

"They did a great job ... it sparked awareness to maybe those students who may not have been privy to what's going on," Edwards said. "This is a controversial issue for all America. It's not easy to digest this topic at all. It makes people uncomfortable."

With 2,800 students, South Elgin is Elgin Area School District U-46's largest high school. Its student population is 54 percent white, 26 percent Latino, 10 percent Asian, and 6 percent black.

The march was supervised by school staff members and did not distract from classroom instruction or disrupt the school day, officials said.

Administrators used it as a teachable moment allowing students to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights.

"We caught wind of this late yesterday, that the students were going to do this," Edwards said. "They weren't asking for permission, and essentially, they were going to leave their classrooms and solicit other students to join them. Their original plan was not defined clearly at all. Having us kind of control the terms, just made it a little bit more palatable for me. I was proud of the fact that they did it in a very orderly fashion."

  More than 350 South Elgin High School students who participated in a march Thursday in solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri, pose for a photo in the school's auditorium. Brian Hill/
  A group of South Elgin High School students walks through the hallways Thursday in support of "Black Lives Matter," a national movement supporting equal treatment of minorities by law enforcement. Brian Hill/
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