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Hundreds Of Students Stage Walkout To Protest Teacher Layoffs In Camden

By Steve Beck, Cleve Bryan

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) -- Students in Camden walked out of class Wednesday in a direct protest to a plan to lay off more than 200 teachers by the end of the school year.

The student-organized protest began at noon near Camden High School.

The students walked down Haddon Avenue and ended their march at the Camden Board of Education building on N. Front Street.

On Monday night, Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard made the announcement to an upset crowd at a public meeting. (See Related Story)

The axe came down on teachers: 272 District employees, 206 in the classroom.

"One of the most difficult decisions a superintendent can make alongside his or her community," Rouhanifard said. "It's a really difficult conversation. We have found ourselves in a challenging financial circumstance."

Rouhanifard was appointed to the failing district as part of a state takeover. He's nine months in and has now cut hundreds of jobs, facing a $75 million budget shortfall.

"From an instructional perspective, we really, truly believe that the impact will be minimal," says Rouhanifard.

In April, nearly 100 Central Office staff and Administrators were laid off.

The students are hoping their walk-out can lead to a reconsideration.

Chanelle Perry, a Medical Arts High School senior says, "Without our teachers, we wouldn't be where we are."

Including teachers, administration and support staff, the District is laying of about 380 total employees to help close the budget shortfall.

Rouhanifard says, "We have a budget problem, we're trying to manage it as best as we can."

Samir Nichols, a senior Creative Arts student says, "We're actually in the streets and we're being somewhat disobedient, but it's for a civil cause."

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