February 14, 2018, April 20, 1999, December 14, 2012, do these dates sound familiar to you? These dates are when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Columbine, and Sandy Hook school shootings took place. These dates should be nothing but that, dates. Dates in history in which no significant tragedies took place, but unfortunately, that is not the case.
The students who participated in the nationwide walk out in honor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on March 14, 2018 were doing so in hopes of ensuring tragedies such as these never happen again. Throughout school, students are taught the basic fundamental United States values as stated in the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights most specifically (the first 10 amendments).
One of the common acronyms to help students remember the rights granted to them by the First Amendment is RAPPS: Religion, Assembly, Press, Petition, and Speech. United States citizens, by law, have the right to freedom of religion, assembly, press, petition, and speech. By participating in this peaceful walk out, students were exercising their First Amendment granted freedoms of assembly and speech. These students were standing up for something they believe in, their own safety within their schools.
The education that you provide to these students inside the classroom is invaluable, but what about the message you are sending to them by giving them detention or even suspension for merely exercising their First Amendment rights? Public schools who are funded by the very government who protects the rights of students in the United States to participate in peaceful protests such as these, are punishing our students for being active American citizens, doesn't make much sense, does it? Trying to threaten students into staying silent about their beliefs is contradictory to everything a school administration should want for their students, and that's pretty sad (regardless of whether or not you believe in their cause).
Tinker v. Des Moines is a prime example of a situation in which students were punished for peacefully protested for something that they believed in. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the punishments the students received were unconstitutional. According to aclu.org, "On February 24, 1969 the Court ruled 7-2 that students do not 'shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.'" In other words, students are still entitled to their constitutional rights even when on school property.
I have all of the respect in the world for each and every one of those students who stood up, walked out, and protested for safety in their schools. Where would this country be today without the protests and movements lead by Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King Jr., and so many others who stood up for their beliefs- who stood up for what was right?
Regardless of whether or not you have the same beliefs as these students, I think we can all agree on one thing - these students should absolutely not be punished by their schools for exercising their First Amendment freedoms. These students are our future, and I am proud and excited to see what the future will become with them leading the way.