Planning for a Student Protest or Demonstration
The tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida has inspired a national dialogue on the causes of school shootings and the appropriate policies to address these all-too-frequent occurrences. Led by those who survived the tragedy, students nationwide are engaging in spirited conversations on these issues with other members of their school communities. In classrooms, cafeterias, and on social media, students are taking an active role in their democracy by debating what legislative actions should follow this horrific incident. In many schools, teachers and administrators have used this moment to educate students on the role of peaceful protest and activism in our society.
In the wake of the shooting student-led protests are being planned across the nation. Districts will face many challenges in successfully navigating this event. While administrators will be working with its students, staff and community to make this event safe for students, administrators should be mindful of certain student populations and how this event will affect those students, i.e. the elementary student, the junior high/middle school population, and special needs population.
There are certain inherent risks for both the student and the district when a student-led protest occurs. It is even more challenging because a public school serves children from age 3 to almost 22. Schools should recognize that most school age students are aware of protest activities and concerns about gun violence in schools. For K-8 population, consider the psychological effects that the Parkland shooting, as well as the student-led protests will have on these students. Engage teachers, social workers, psychologists about how to meaningfully process through the world events that are occurring surrounding the tragedy that happened on February 14th. Perhaps a controlled walk-out is appropriate for 7th and 8th grade students. Or, perhaps instruction should occur about constitutional rights and using those rights in a constructive way. Maybe discussion about mental health is appropriate or talk about bullying and the effect that it can have on students. The key is to meet, discuss and plan. But, include this population in the discussion.
This legal Insight is available on our website at: https://tuethkeeney.wpengine.com/il-school-shooting-protests. In addition, Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt, P.C. is preparing a more thorough guidance document to assist schools in preparing for this nation-wide event, which will be available at www.tuethkeeney.com/insight .