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Roundup Results: If students hold a walkout, who should dictate the consequences?

On March 24, 800,000 people participated in the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. The gun control protests, which took place in cities throughout the country, followed a national walkout day among high school students. On March 14 at 10 a.m., students walked out of their classrooms for 17 minutes, representing the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. The walkout brought up issues of free speech and class disruption, with some students facing disciplinary action for their absence from class. 

Reach NC Voices asked North Carolinians their opinion on the topic in our Reach Roundup, asking, “If students hold a walkout, who should dictate the consequences?” Response options included: teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, there should be no consequences, or other. Here’s the breakdown of how participants answered our question as well as some of the comments we received.

“As long as the students protest peacefully, they should only have to be responsible for the work they may have missed. I am a teacher and I support the students using their 1st amendment rights.”
Teacher from Charlotte

“We have made a big mistake in the ‘containment’ and ‘compartmentalization’ of our educational process. I hope these students of courage, morals and ideals change minds. I hope they remind us that virtue, intelligence, and wisdom belong to people of all ages.”
Respondent from Hickory

“It is established precedent that students do not give up their rights at the school house doors. But as is suggested in other comments, a well considered and consistently and fairly applied policy at the school district level would aid students in exercising their rights.”
Respondent from Durham 

“We want our students to learn to stand up for what they believe, challenge the things that are wrong with society, and have a voice. If we give consequences for doing these things, we are sending the message that they should remain silent and accept status quo. Do we as teachers really believe that? Do we as a nation really believe that? I surely hope not.”
Respondent from Charlotte

“I agree that we should exercise our first amendment right but are the students really understanding this or is this just a way ‘to get out of class.'”
Teacher from Lenoir

If you’re interested in participating in Reach NC Voices, you can sign up to share your thoughts on our weekly questions. We’d love to hear from you!

Yasmin Bendaas

Yasmin Bendaas is a Science writer.  A North Carolina native, she received her master’s degree in Science & Medical Journalism at UNC Chapel Hill, where she was a Park Fellow. She received her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology in 2013 from Wake Forest University, where she double-minored in journalism and Middle East and South Asia studies. As an undergraduate student, Bendaas gained insight into public health when she interned at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, a statewide grantmaker focused on rural health, including access to primary care, diabetes, community-centered prevention, and mental health and substance abuse. 

As a journalist, Bendaas has been funded twice by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for fieldwork in Algeria — first to cover a disappearing indigenous tattoo tradition, and again to look at how climate change affects rural sheepherding practices.