Universities Vow Not to Penalize High School Students Who Participate in Anti-Gun Violence Protests
Since the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died during a mass shooting on February 14, students around the country have begun peacefully protesting against gun violence. Leading the call for stricter gun control laws and more assistance for the mentally troubled, student survivors of the shooting started the “Never Again” movement, aimed at ensuring these type of incidents stop happening.
Students have begun organizing walkouts and protests using social media, including a National Walkout planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shootings, and the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC on March 24. There’s even a website where you can search for a school walkout in your area, or plan your own.
While many school officials have been supportive of these peaceful protests, students were rightly concerned when some school systems stated that any student participating in a protest during school hours would be suspended. Though a 1969 Supreme Court ruling states that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,” some students have been worried that a possible suspension, even if unconstitutional, may impact their admittance to college.
To that end, the admissions departments of over 175 American universities have released statements that students who receive punishments for participating in the walkouts will not have their offers of admission rescinded. “We stand in support of every high school student who chooses to participate in peaceful protests, such as the March For Our Lives and the National School Walkout Day, or who thoughtfully and respectfully exercise their freedom of expression,” stated Kelly A. Walter, Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions at Boston University. “We want to reassure students who have already been admitted to BU or whose applications are currently under review, that your admission to Boston University will not be jeopardized should your school levy a penalty for participating in such protests.”
This sentiment is echoed by colleges like Yale, UCLA, Brown, Northwestern, and NYU, letting students who have been admitted to these schools rest at ease, knowing they can express their beliefs peacefully without having it affect their futures. You’ll find a full list of all universities who have released statements of support for student protests via NACA or this helpful Google Doc maintained by a student from MIT.
Led by the youth of America, and supported by teachers and other officials, there’s hope for real change when it comes to school violence. As David Burge, president to NACA, reminds us, “Activism signals that students are ready to take control of the world around them, that they are finding their voice, building confidence, and are on the path to be engaged citizens.”