School district releases statement regarding school walkouts
February 28, 2018
In wake of the Florida shooting on Feb. 14, several students at Homestead High School are organizing a walkout on Wednesday, March 14 at 10 a.m. This is planned to be exactly one month after the Parkland shooting, and is slated to last 17 minutes in memory of the 17 lives lost.
The shooting in Parkland has provoked students to utilize their First Amendment rights, also raising questions as to whether or not walkouts are protected by the First Amendment. According to the Newseum, “The Tinker decision and later court cases also ruled that while students have First Amendment rights, they are not as extensive as those enjoyed by adults. Their free expression rights can be curtailed by school officials if they can prove that the student action would ‘materially and substantially interfere’ with education in the school, or interfere with the rights of others. In Tinker, the Supreme Court found that the three armband-wearing students could not be punished by school authorities, because their silent protest did not significantly disrupt education in the school.”
The Mequon-Thiensville School District district recently released the following statement to students and parents in the Mequon-Thiensville School District,
“Dear Parents and Guardians:
In response to recent events, a few nationally organized groups have planned student walkouts and encouraged students across the country to participate in them. On March 14, students nationwide have been encouraged to walk out of their classes for 17 minutes, starting at 10 a.m., to protest the violence that has taken place in U.S. schools, most recently in Parkland, Florida.
We recognize that time in class is critically important. In preparation for this potential student walkout, we must balance the importance of instructional time with the rights of students to express themselves through protest under the First Amendment. As such, the Mequon-Thiensville School District will not impose penalties upon students who choose to participate in walkouts in a manner that does not interfere with the educational program or present a health or safety hazard, per Board of Education policy.
In anticipation of March 14, middle and high school principals are meeting and talking with self-appointed student leaders from Steffen, Lake Shore, and Homestead to better understand their intentions for that morning. They are doing so to ensure that appropriate staff can monitor and supervise the activity to maintain a safe and orderly environment. If a student elects to leave class at 10:00 a.m. on March 14, the teacher will note the student’s temporary absence from the classroom.
Many students will choose not to take part in the protest on March 14. Administrators and teachers are planning to ensure that the learning continues for those students who choose not to participate.
Once the 17-minute protest is complete, students who chose to participate will be expected to return to their classrooms and resume the school day. Failure to return to class in a timely manner will be considered a violation of school rules.
We encourage parents to have conversations with their children about the activity planned for March 14 and the broader issues of school safety and student activism. As always, the safety and security of our schools is our priority. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.
Superintendent of Schools
This has been a discussion nationally because many high schools across the country have threatened to suspend students if they participate in a walk out. In response, many universities have pledged their support to students who choose to walk out. Below are several of the universities that have released statements supporting the students rights under the First Amendment.