If you're planning to take part in the national school walkout, read this
CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/13/2018, 3:37 p.m.
By Doug Criss, CNN Design: Joyce Tseng, CNN
(CNN) -- Students across the country are expected to walk out of their classrooms Wednesday morning to protest gun violence. The National School Walkout is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in every time zone and last for 17 minutes -- a minute for each life lost in the Parkland school shooting.
If you're a student who's thinking of taking part (or the parent of one), you probably have lots of questions: Can the school retaliate? Will it hurt your chances of college? Can you just stay home for the day?
For help with answers, we turned to a couple of experts:
Ben Wizner is the director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project and an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law. He's litigated numerous cases involving the intersection of civil liberties and national security. He's also the principal legal advisor to Edward Snowden.
Christine V. Hamiel is an attorney at the von Briesen & Roper law firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She chairs the firm's school law section and advises school districts on legal matters involving student issues, among other things.
1. Can my school punish me for taking part?
If you're just participating: Your school can (since students are required to be in school) but many won't as long as the students aren't being disruptive. Remember, students have a First Amendment right to protest, just like anybody else. The landmark Tinker v. Des Moines case pretty much settled that legal question. In it, the Supreme Court ruled students don't "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
Some schools could hit students who walk out with an unexcused absence. That could be a bigger problem if a student already has a lot of those and the extra one results in him or her being considered truant.
If the walkout turns disruptive: In that case, schools can stop students from participating. They can also take some punitive measures. But they can't punish students just because the district doesn't like the brand of politics that powers the protests.
2. Can I be arrested?
Generally, students don't have to worry about being arrested -- unless, of course, they start breaking laws, like blocking a street while protesting.
3. Can a teacher force me to write a letter or essay as a condition for participating?
Some districts are telling students they have to write a letter or essay on the topic of, say, gun reform or civil disobedience in order to participate. That's OK. Schools can assign work to students, Wizner said -- and students don't have a constitutional right to not do work. "It seems to be a sensible way for the school to teach students" lessons on civics and citizenship, he said.
4. Can a teacher schedule a test during the walkout?
Yes. If the test was already scheduled and is part of the curriculum, that's perfectly fine. But if the test's sole purpose is to keep students from walking out, that's more of problem. In that case, students don't have a lot of recourse, since schools generally have the discretion to schedule tests when they want to. Wizner called such practices "a vindictive exercise" that wastes an opportunity for teachers to teach students "how to be an adult in this world."