(I’ll update as more information becomes available.)
In the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, survivors from Stoneman Douglas High School and students across the country are planning a mass walk-out — the March for Our Lives — for Saturday, March 24, to call on legislators to prioritize their lives and safety when they’re passing laws to prevent gun violence. Two other national marches mark one month after the Parkland shooting and the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High massacre.
A lot of students are worried about what might happen to them if they participate in walk-outs and other forms of protest against being murdered in class by people carrying semiautomatic weapons that have no purpose other than to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. And it’s a valid concern — several schools have made it clear that they plan to penalize students who take part in such demonstrations. Curtis Rhodes, the superintendent of Needville ISD in Needville, Texas, has threatened a three-days suspension for any student who walks out to protest.
The ACLU reminds us that, while schools do have the power to penalize students for walking out to protest, they don’t have the power to punish the students any more harshly than they would for any other type of nonattendance. (So what Curtis Rhodes is threatening is illegal.) It also offers more information about free speech and student protests.
Lots of questions about students’ rights in a walkout.
Here’s the gist: Your school can punish you for missing class, just like they always can, but it can’t punish you more harshly for protesting than if you were missing class for another reason. #KnowYourRights
— ACLU (@ACLU) February 23, 2018
For students who do suffer disciplinary action for walking out, the V21 Collective has offered to help turn those accounts into badass college admissions essays.
STUDENTS: If your school is threatening disciplinary action if you walk out or engage in peaceful protests, we will personally help you craft your experience into a college application essay that will make admission boards weep and cheer.
Teachers, profs, editors, please copy
— V21 Collective (@V21collective) February 23, 2018
Others have made similar statements. Grace Gibson</a. is a writing tutor, doctoral student, and survivor of gun violence who offers her services. Writing teacher and former college application coach Samuel Ashworth extends his offer to students penalized for Black Lives Matters protests. I have no doubt that there are others out there who I’ve missed and that the list will grow over time.
NACAC, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, is maintaining an ever-updated list of colleges and universities that have made statements about the impact of disciplinary action on college admission. Spoiler alert: All of the statements I’ve seen support the students and assure them that they won’t be penalized for participating in the protest — even if results in disciplinary action. The general tenor is that determined, impassioned students willing to take action in defense of their rights is something to be encouraged and celebrated (and rightly so).
If you plan to march, you can register to march, and if you can’t make it to Washington for the march there, there’s a list of other marches around the country (and, in fact, the world), so you can probably find one near you. You can also register to vote — anyone who will be 18 by the time of the election can register, and some states allow preregistration for future voters as young as 16. And if you can’t march, consider donating.
Let me know in comments if you find more resources that can support students as they stand up for their own lives.
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