I was deeply unhappy to read that the Marshfield School System discouraged students from leaving school to join the nationwide demonstration for school safety. Students needed written permission from a parent to leave school for the 17-minute demonstration. Students without permission were penalized with an unexcused absence. Student organizers were told they could not use school grounds for the demonstration, forcing students to cross a busy street to the opposite sidewalk.
Our students may not be 18, but they are nevertheless citizens with the full range of Constitutional rights and protections. Those who joined the demonstration were exercising their rights of assembly and free speech. And what were they asking for? The right to be safe in their schools. Is this too much to ask? Have we become so paralyzed by partisan politics that we cannot prevail on our representatives to enact reasonable restrictions on the lethality of firearms? Shouldn’t we be able to convince them to appropriate adequate funds to “harden” our schools so that killers can’t waltz in with their assault rifles any old time? That alone will provide more safety than arming every other teacher in our schools with loaded handguns they won’t know how to use nor want to carry.
The Marshfield School Board and administrators should have recognized the powerful civics lesson our students could have learned by joining the nationwide demonstrations in support of school safety. If the chance comes again, rather than discouraging participation, the Board and administrators should work with student organizers to promote an orderly and meaningful demonstration on school grounds. No doubt a few students will view it as a lark or a chance to skip school for the day. But, the majority will return to their classes with an enhanced appreciation of their rights and responsibilities under the Constitution. And we may hope, indeed we can reasonably expect, that their participation in this remarkable student movement will make them more serious students as they prepare for the time when they will be voting citizens of our Democracy.
Alden R. Carter