A quartet of students at a Grand Rapids, Michigan high school has been suspended after it staged a protest in front of a pro-immigration banner at school.
The Grand Rapids Christian High School students intended to hold up their own signs stating “Trump” and “Build the Wall” in front of the banner which read “Immigrants are a Blessing Not a Burden.”
WTSP reports video shows a teacher “rushing over to stop” them when she saw they intended to display their homemade flyers.
In the following report, the protesters do not appear to be belligerent after confronted by the teacher; indeed, the reporter points out that some students merely walking by didn’t even notice what was going on.
Nevertheless, as Superintendent Thomas DeJonge noted in a letter to parents, the student protesters were suspended “because of the disruption they caused and disrespect they demonstrated toward fellow students and staff.”
From the story:
DeJonge said the high school’s social justice group “Love Thy Neighbor” was gathering stories about the positive impact immigrants have had on the lives of fellow students when the students wanted to show the the pro-Trump signs.
After the teacher left the area, we are told an argument ensued between students on both sides of the issue but the incident did not become physical, DeJonge told the 13 Watchdog team.
DeJonge says he decided to suspend the four sign-holding students because they were disrespecting their fellow students. In a statement to the 13 Watchdog team late Thursday, DeJonge said they were suspended because they “became verbally aggressive and made insensitive comments toward other students.”
“To be clear, the students were not disciplined because of having expressed their political viewpoint,” DeJonge wrote. …
DeJonge told us over the phone he felt the students interrupting the gathering were disrespectful to other students and felt the four were disrespectful to faculty and staff members.
Parents of the disciplined students aren’t buying DeJonge’s explanation. One said the boys “were simply trying to support the President of the United States.”
Another parent told us the students did not want to incite violence and only wanted to make a political statement about illegal immigration because the students felt they hadn’t been afforded an opportunity to say how they felt. The parent questioned why the school would allow students to put up a pro-immigration theme when the country seems to be divided on the topic.
“Why are they bringing this political nonsense into the school?” the parent asked.
According to a report by Fox-17, the pro-Trump four contend they were suspended “without much explanation.” They also allege that “upwards of 50 other students came at […] them, threatening them with violence.”
As a former educator myself, I can understand concerns on both sides of this matter, but based on the available evidence it looks like the school rather overreacted.
First, a two-day suspension? Kids involved in physical altercations/fights often don’t end up with that punishment. The video seems to indicate the pro-Trump quartet was sort of in “prank” mode as you can hear the person recording laughing, and one of the protesters giggling and giving a thumbs up once he’s situated in front of the banner. But educators deal with pranks throughout the day, everyday — and without any disciplinary measures.
Second, if a school allows the expression of one (hot political topic) viewpoint, it has to expect — and hence, permit — expression of the other. (Note, however, that Grand Rapids Christian is a private entity, and as such has greater leeway in “circumventing” First Amendment protections. Its Wikipedia page indicates it is “parental controlled” as well, so how that factors in could be interesting …)
Third, the video reveals no disruption or disrespect of any real magnitude, although the super did say it was after the teacher left that “we are told an argument ensued between students on both sides of the issue.” I can understand the rapidity of the teacher in her attempt to squelch the quartet’s signs (as in “this isn’t the time or place”/”make your own banner” kind of way), but something tells me if the viewpoint situation was reversed the teach wouldn’t have been so quick to act.
Lastly, make note of the super’s use of “felt.”
If the boys’ parents/guardians don’t feel they’re getting any satisfaction, they should inquire as to how they can exercise some of that “parental control.”