While many colleges across the country have committed to not penalizing high school students who opt to participate in walk-out protests related to the Parkland, Florida massacre, the University of Georgia isn’t one of them.
This has miffed a pair of UGA students who took to the pages of The Red & Black student paper to voice their displeasure. After all, when progressive students want to do something, they should be able to do it!
“This transcends politics,” Hennessey writes, lamenting the lack of response to his queries by “higher officials” at UGA.
“As of March 5, at least 305 colleges and universities including MIT, Yale, Emory and The University of Michigan, have released statements regarding this issue,” he writes. “I want the University of Georgia to be included among the most highly regarded academic institutions …”
Hennessey set up a petition to get the university’s endorsement on students’ right to join walk-outs.
In another op-ed, sophomore Anila Yoganathan argues the First Amendment grants students to the “right” to engage in peaceful protests whenever they please:
Walkouts are a direct exercise of the First Amendment, but there is a conflict between whether students should be allowed to protest by walking out of schools and whether they can or should be penalized. Walkouts bring up the question of whether these students still have all of their First Amendment rights while in school. …
Many schools have not given their response to the walkout, while some counties such as Dekalb and Fulton do encourage students to exercise their rights […]
However, students in counties who have not declared their stance will risk their reputation and record. If they do receive a citation or a mark for the walkout, colleges could hold that against them when it comes time for admissions. Many private universities such as Emory University and the Ivy Leagues state they will not hold a citation for national walkout day against these students.
[The University System of Georgia] should support the students who plan to exercise their First Amendment rights in an effort to change the system and clarify its stance to the public.
Contrary to Ms. Yoganathan’s contentions, the highest court in the land has fairly consistently ruled that (high) school students’ First Amendment rights can be curtailed in the name of an “orderly educational environment.”
For example, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from students who were not allowed to wear shirts with the American flag on them on Cinco de Mayo. The SCOTUS also has permitted schools to censor school newspapers, and in the (in)famous “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case it noted “the First Amendment does not require schools to tolerate at school events student expression that contributes to those dangers [of drug use].”
Furthermore, regarding student walk-outs: Where should the line be drawn? Should pro-life students be permitted to leave class and school to protest abortion? What about pro-Second Amendment students?
Public institutions have an obligation to remain content neutral: If they are “forgiving” student gun control protests, they should be expected to give the same leeway to other demonstrations.