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Administration announces policies for student-led walkout

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Students from across the state of Florida protest the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in front of the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Courtesy of Joe Readle/Getty Images)

UPDATED AS OF 3/11/2018, 1:18 PM

By ANIKET MEHROTRA
Staff Writer

The administration has formally announced its guidelines for a student protest on campus in accordance with the Irvine Unified School District’s (IUSD) district-wide policies.

According to an email sent by Principal Kevin Astor on March 6, students who walk out during the last 10 minutes of first period will be given an informal detention. This disciplinary action will not appear on student’s permanent records nor affect the college admission process.

“Our goal is to work with students to help them exercise their rights to free speech [while also] helping them to understand what the consequences might be,” Astor said. “[We want to figure out] how we can meet some of [their] goals in a way that doesn’t negatively impact the school and doesn’t take away from other students.”

The administration, however, cannot endorse or condone “activities which fall outside what [its] rules allow for.” This includes walking out of class during regular school hours.

In response to the growing questions regarding students’ rights and protections, IUSD Superintendent Terry Walker sent out an email to parents on March 2 to describe the guidelines set forth by the district in regards to protests on campus. 

According to this email, the district, “in accordance with state law … will not discipline students who choose to assemble, provided they adhere to District and school guidelines.” These guidelines call for all activities to be “peaceful and respectful” and mandates that “at no time may students leave campus.”

Staff members and members of the Irvine Police Department (IPD) will ensure that students remain on school property, as well as prevent unauthorized non-student protesters from attending the protest.  

The administration recognizes its students’ rights to free speech on campus as outlined in the landmark 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines. This case held that students retain their First Amendment right to free expression as long as it is not hostile, violent or disruptive to school activities. Any expression that falls into one of the aforementioned categories is subject to disciplinary action.

In accordance with these protections, the administration intends to work with student organizers to “ensure minimal disruption to school processes [and] the safety of students.”

The main student organizers of the walkout, seniors Cathy Sun and Raina Zhao, are in communication with teachers and the administration to ensure the physical and legal protection of students.

“Almost all the teachers we’ve talked to have been supportive, and the administration is supportive of the cause too,” Zhao said. “What we need to do is to ensure that all students are safe.

Like students, staff members do not completely forfeit their First Amendment rights while on campus, but are contractually bound to represent the school district from wherever they work. As a result, they may not walk out with students while they are on duty, nor endorse any student-led protests on campus, as set forth by the National Education Association (NEA).

A staff member may participate in such protests as a private citizen off school property, may share their personal opinions with students so long as the opinion is labeled as their own and may discuss the issue so long as regular school activities are not left undone.

The administration began to discuss its policies UHS students began coordinating a walkout in solidarity with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, nearly one month after the shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students.

The walkout is planned to take place on Wednesday, March 14 during the last 10 minutes of first period and into office hours. Students will march around campus and participate in a sit-in for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost in Parkland on February 14.

Student coordinators have reached out to students at Northwood and Woodbridge High Schools to coordinate protests on their campuses on the same day.

 

 

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