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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

School walkouts should have regulated punishment

    By Angelina Liang

    Opinion Editor

      Led and organized by the survivors of the Parkland shooting, the modern movement for stronger gun control is encouraging students across to participate in walkouts in the middle of the school day. On Mar. 14, millions of students nationwide left class in honor of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman High School shooting in February. However, in doing so, students face consequences mandated by their schools that range from detention to suspension. As the March for Our Lives movement continues to gain velocity, it is increasingly important to remember that the very nature of protesting the law is to take responsibility for breaking it.

      In Needville, TX, Superintendent Curtis Rhodes released a district-wide announcement on Feb. 21 threatening students who participated in walkouts during school hours with three-day suspensions in addition to existing consequences for truancies. The letter warned that punishments would be dealt regardless of parent-written notes to clear absences, according to ABC News.

      The letter sent by Rhodes through the Needville School District stated, “Understand that we are here for an education and not a political protest.

      Rhodes is not alone in his stand, as schools in many conservative-leaning states have issued threats of suspension, barring from participation in school activities, and even withholding of diplomas for students involved in walkouts.

      However, Georgetown Law professor Heidi Li Feldman pointed out to the Washington Post that threatening and punishing students for missing school simply because the reason is a protest rather than a sick day or a personal issue is in complete violation of the First Amendment.

      Although educators are not allowed to plan or organize walkouts in any way, plans can be made by school administrations to ensure that student protest occurs in a timely and safe manner, according to the National Education Association. In response to this nationwide walkout, the organization advised educators to plan ahead on how to address the issue of student walkouts. Whether it is allowing for students to act without punishment or disclosing a predetermined disciplinary action that is justifiable for missing class, a uniform and clear plan of action must be in place throughout a school district.

      While some see any penalization of student protestors as unjust, it is important to understand that an integral part of fighting for change is that it is supposed to be a fight. Making the decision to risk one’s reputation to stand up for what one believes is right is not supposed to be easy, and sometimes, it is not supposed to go without punishment.

      Schools should not give additional consequences for protesting, but rather, give students the same amount of discipline for skipping class for any other reason. This means detentions and truancies based on attendance records, not bans from further school activities or suspensions that would affect a pupil’s permanent record.

      Here at Gabrielino High School, students were subject to truancies reported by teachers for walking out, but no punishment was given by the administration. Because students were made aware of this before the protest, they were able to decide whether or not they wanted to take part in the walkout.

      For students choosing to participate in gun control protests that occur during school hours, the acceptance of a consequence signifies that they are willing to make sacrifices to be a voice for justice. Before deciding whether one wishes to participate in any kind of protest during school hours and on school grounds, students should be educated on the rights, responsibilities, and possible repercussions of their actions.

      Breaking rules has consequences that must be acknowledged. While some punishments are extreme, there are completely justified ramifications that come with the nature of civil disobedience. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus knowing she would be arrested for doing so, colonists protested against unlawful British taxation, and students are willing to be penalized for protesting government inaction during school hours for one reason: some causes are just worth fighting for.

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    School walkouts should have regulated punishment