A Texas School Administrator sent a message to students on social media informing them that they would be suspended from school if they chose to engage in on-campus protests of any kind in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Needville Independent School District Superintendent Curtis Rhodes stated that his reasoning for this decision is to maintain order and discipline in the classroom. As laudable as this may be, Rhodes is also sending another message to students: our school district does not approve of or encourage political literacy or peaceful activism.

Rhodes stated that school is a place to learn and grow “educationally, emotionally, and morally,” so apparently he is of the belief that school is not a place to be educated about becoming politically literate adults. Any protests were described as “disruptions” which is generally true, but if Needville students would be like others across the nation, a protest probably would have been peaceful.

Beyond purely political motives, students across the nation probably are participating in these protests out of fear that their own schools may be next. Because most of the students are too young to vote, they undoubtedly feel that their voices haven’t been heard by adultsin office. Even if the adults disagree with the solutions students are saying they want, this is not the time to silence them.

Young people have long been accused of being uninterested in civic affairs and politics, and now that there are many students showing an interest, there are school administrators telling them that they will be punished for it? There is nothing wrong with wanting school to remain calm without disruptions, but instead of threatening suspensions if students chose to participate in a peaceful demonstration, perhaps the better option would have been to provide the students with a specific time to demonstrate. There is plenty of research that suggests short breaks for physical activity to enhance academic performance. A short walk out the doors of the school to the parking lot, and maybe a short period of quiet time outdoors wouldn’t have been a huge disruption for Needville students. It certainly would make their Civics teachers happy – if they have them.

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