In the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 dead, there has been a growing movement among students to hold walkouts and other forms of demonstrations as a means of protesting gun policy and the current administration’s response to the tragedy. Survivors of the Florida shooting, in particular, have been among the most active in voicing concerns over current U.S. gun policy, planning trips to speak to Florida lawmakers and rallying high school students across the country to participate in a joint walkout.
Some school districts, however, have made it clear that students who miss class to participate in demonstrations will be subject to disciplinary action. For example, Needville Independent School District (ISD), a public school system in Texas, threatened suspensions for any students who participated in a walkout or similar protest.
“Please be advised that the Needville ISD will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness!” a letter from Needville ISD Superintendent Curtis Rhodes read. “Should students choose to do so, they will be suspended from school for three days and face all the consequences that come along with an out-of-school suspension. Life is all about choices, and every choice has a consequence, whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, 50 or 500 students involved.”
In response to this statement, which quickly made waves through national media, a large number of colleges and universities, including Williams and all the other NESCAC schools, stated that they would not penalize applicants for any discipline they receive as a result of participating in any peaceful protest. The College made its announcement public through an update to its admissions page and a Twitter post on Friday.
“In the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, students around the country have announced planned protests against gun violence, and some school officials have responded with threatened punishments for anyone who participates,” the statement on the College’s admission website reads. “At this time of deep divisions in America and worldwide, Williams sees thoughtful political engagement as every person’s right and obligation. We assure you that no Williams applicant will be disadvantaged in our application process for taking part in constructive political activity of any kind, including peaceful protest.”
Joining close to 100 other colleges and universities with similar statements, the College made it clear that high school students should not let a fear of disciplinary action dissuade them from taking part in peaceful protest and activism.