Current events are forcing schools to be responsible for managing public discord on the subjects of the 1st and 2nd Amendments. It is equally unfair to put that burden on our schools as it is unfair to force teachers to carry guns. But at last I guess this is a part of making America great again!
A NowThis Video of a Fulton County #schoolwalkout demonstration that has gone viral. The leadership gave the children a platform to express themselves. The video shows the school only let the students express themselves with pre-approved language. The plan at this school was either not well thought out or one group of 2nd amendment loving administrators drew the line of freedom of speech at the butt of their shotgun. I can imagine that determining how to handle school walkouts was not easy for school systems.
The American in me says that it is a natural part of the curriculum for children to get a hands-on civics lesson by participating in a nationwide 1st amendment drill. Schools had the ability to turn this into a living laboratory for learning. But as with all experiments there is a chance of something going wrong.
The adult lawyer in me gets slightly nervous about the safety of the children if the event is not well planned or someone with evil intent takes advantage of the protest. I imagine this is the greatest concern for all school systems.
The advocate in me understands that this topic can be as divisive in schools as it is in legislatures across the country. There is no doubt this particular expression of one’s 1st Amendment rights will inevitably offend or anger others with strong opinions about their 2nd Amendment rights. I recognize the importance of schools needing the ability to put a lid on the aftereffects of such heated debate to continue with the process of learning in schools.
Technically, the children whose speeches were interrupted not once, but twice, still learned a valuable lesson. Often when one tries to exercise their 1st Amendment rights, government or opposition will try to stop you. In this lesson on civil disobedience the students should learn protestors must come with multiple approaches to get your voice heard, protestors should be prepared for all of your hard work to be wasted due to a shut down, and protestors must practice overcoming the feeling of powerlessness that comes with any unsuccessful action. Don’t believe me, just Google the Edmond Pettis Bridge, school integration, and the entire Civil Rights movement. If history is right, students – don’t give up because you can persevere.
Hopefully, upon going viral the school system will learn a lesson too. I hope that lesson however is not the awful pendulum swing that will make the schools prohibit any future planned protest to avoid going viral. That is NOT the lesson Fulton County. Start thinking now how you will handle the next walk out. The history books will tell you civil discord usually involves breaking a rule or pushing the limits – therefore no matter what you decide be prepared for the students to push the boundaries. To avoid appearing tone deaf, I would suggest changing the public speech policy particularly because it allows students to use all the vocabulary, grammar lessons, research skills, and public speaking experience in one setting. Isn’t that the point of this crazy common core curriculum – mix it all together.
On another note: Adults – we don’t have to debate everything!
When someone turns this discussion of how to reduce violence in schools into an either/or debate your response should be – “can’t we do both?” A Virginia teacher proudly posted on social media the poster on her classroom door of her sixth-grade class related to the #schoolwalkout. This theme of #walkupnotout has been all over social media as a counterargument for the protest.
Let’s be clear for all of the adults out there. This is not an EITHER / OR proposition. The two notions of being nice vs. speaking out in disagreement are NOT mutually exclusive. They actually work quite well together. Why are adults not encouraging both actions rather than making kids chose one action? Worse are the adults who belittled the protest because some were school sanctioned.
Americans, our children should be encouraged to do both or do the one that suits their personality. The lesson is to participate in being a solution to a problem rather than yelling from the sidelines, on social media, or on a colorful poster on your classroom door.1 There is enough eyerolls to pass around to everyone who turned this into a debate.
Eyeroll to those who shunned these students’ plan for the #studentwalkout. Let them do their plan. It’s their plan. Join on or do your own thing but don’t be a hater. You do not have to turn student activity into a debate of right or wrong. The discussion should be “how to be an engaged citizen” which includes respecting opposing views even if you don’t agree. If being nice is your strategy let that be YOUR strategy. You don’t have to throw shade on the strategy of those who want to change gun laws or those who simply want to honor the lives lost.
Eyeroll to those who immediately cried “victim shaming.” Can we not immediately turn the kids who did not directly experience mass shooting into victims so easily? They are taking power and control of this situation – you would be wise to follow their lead. Teaching our kids to be nicer is not victim blaming, it’s actually good advice and a lost art we need to discuss as often as we discuss changing gun laws. Magically, WE CAN DO BOTH (singing in my Oprah voice)!
Kids Student leaders, don’t get sucked into this us vs. them argument because we all want the same thing – nondead school children.
In an attempt to make our schools safer we are forcing our school systems to make hard decisions that we as a country are struggling to make. For that reason, I think the schools deserve a one-time pass as do the adults who jumped on the us vs. them bandwagon. But there are more marches coming and unfortunately there will also be more mass shootings – so it is time to regroup. And always remember Georgia, the goal is not to look worse than Alabama and Mississippi!
1 We’ve discussed this notion of how to be engaged! Click here for a reminder!