While some local school districts have taken positions against students participating in a planned national student walkout tomorrow to protest the Parkland, Fla. shooting and push for additional gun laws, the same cannot be said for the Chicago Public School (CPS) system.
And because of a pro-active stance being taken by the principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Chicago, the Republican Party of Chicago said it was preparing to sue CPS.
"It's appalling that 10 to 14-year-old kids would be coerced, by their teachers, to participate in a political demonstration," said Chris Cleveland, chairman of the Chicago GOP. "A 10-year-old kid isn't going to have an informed opinion on these political matters, and shouldn't be expected to have the fortitude to hold a different opinion from everyone else in his or her classroom. This is political indoctrination, pure and simple."
According to a press release from the Chicago GOP, an email sent by the principal of Lincoln Elementary to parents stated:
This coming Wednesday, March 14 many students/schools across the nation (and globe) are going to participate in a school walkout demonstration at 10:00 AM to support the memory of those that were killed in the Parkland, FL shooting and also to demonstrate their right to express their opinion about gun control.
At Lincoln, we will also participate in a walkout.
The email went on to explain how grades 5-8 will be taken outside for a silent demonstration. Students are encouraged to bring posters. Students who do not wish to participate will be sent to a room where they can wait, away from their peers. Classes are canceled during the walkout.
"It's a violation of CPS policy, of state law, and of the First Amendment for a government-run school to organize a political demonstration and pressure students to participate in it," said Cleveland.
The Chicago GOP has sent a letter to CPS CEO Janice Jackson asking CPS to cancel the demonstrations, and will likely sue if they do not, Cleveland indicated.
In O'Fallon School District 90, which educates K-8, superintendent Carrie Hruby wrote an open letter stating in part:
"National media attention will most likely highlight these planned walk-outs, causing a vulnerability to the security of our schools," Hruby wrote. "The district is concerned about security to students and feel we must keep students from exiting the school during the planned time for protesting at 10:00 A.M. We will expect students to remain in their classrooms engaged in lessons."
Hruby's letter further stated that if students and parents want to express their voices on this topic, they are asked to do so on a non-school day, for instance Saturday, March 24 when other national events are planned.
O'Fallon Township High School superintendent Darcy Benway expressed support for students' right to protest...however:
"...[A] school walkout/protest is an act of civil disobedience and, by definition, a violation of rules," Benway wrote in an open letter. "Accordingly, disciplinary consequences will be administered pursuant to the student handbook for Skipping/Missing School in Groups. Instruction in our classrooms will continue as planned. If you plan to protest, please do so peacefully, as additional discipline may be administered for disruptive behaviors in hallways or classrooms that infringe on the rights of other students who are not participating in the walkout. Disruptive behaviors also distract from the intended message of the walkout/protest.
"We understand and respect that you may feel these walkout/protests are an educational activity that should be free from discipline. Although it may be considered an educational experience, the full lesson in civil disobedience is compromised if you do not receive a consequence for a walkout. As we prepare you for 'life after OTHS,' it is an important lesson to learn that consequences may result when engaging in school walkouts or protests, regardless of the merit behind the cause. If OTHS teachers or administrators walked out of our jobs today to protest for a cause, certainly the Board of Education would impose consequences for that action. Events such as these provide excellent opportunities for us to prepare you for your future decision-making, even if the lessons being provided are not popular."