If you’re planning to take part in national school walkout, read this

Mar 12, 2018, 6:27 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 3:59 pm

(CNN) — Students across the country are expected to walk out of their classrooms Wednesday morning to protest gun violence. The National School Walkout is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in every time zone and last for 17 minutes — a minute for each life lost in the Parkland school shooting.

If you’re a student who’s thinking of taking part (or the parent of one), you probably have lots of questions: Can the school retaliate? Will it hurt your chances of college? Can you just stay home for the day?

For help with answers, we turned to a couple of experts:

Ben Wizner is the director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project and an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law. He’s litigated numerous cases involving the intersection of civil liberties and national security. He’s also the principal legal advisor to Edward Snowden.

Christine V. Hamiel is an attorney at the von Briesen & Roper law firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She chairs the firm’s school law section and advises school districts on legal matters involving student issues, among other things.

1. Can my school punish me for taking part?

If you’re just participating: Your school can (since students are required to be in school) but many won’t as long as the students aren’t being disruptive. Remember, students have a First Amendment right to protest, just like anybody else. The landmark Tinker v. Des Moines case pretty much settled that legal question. In it, the Supreme Court ruled students don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

Some schools could hit students who walk out with an unexcused absence. That could be a bigger problem if a student already has a lot of those and the extra one results in him or her being considered truant.

If the walkout turns disruptive: In that case, schools can stop students from participating. They can also take some punitive measures. But they can’t punish students just because the district doesn’t like the brand of politics that powers the protests.

2. Can I be arrested?

Generally, students don’t have to worry about being arrested — unless, of course, they start breaking laws, like blocking a street while protesting.

3. Can a teacher force me to write a letter or essay as a condition for participating?

Some districts are telling students they have to write a letter or essay on the topic of, say, gun reform or civil disobedience in order to participate. That’s OK. Schools can assign work to students, Wizner said — and students don’t have a constitutional right to not do work. “It seems to be a sensible way for the school to teach students” lessons on civics and citizenship, he said.

4. Can a teacher schedule a test during the walkout?

Yes. If the test was already scheduled and is part of the curriculum, that’s perfectly fine. But if the test’s sole purpose is to keep students from walking out, that’s more of problem. In that case, students don’t have a lot of recourse, since schools generally have the discretion to schedule tests when they want to. Wizner called such practices “a vindictive exercise” that wastes an opportunity for teachers to teach students “how to be an adult in this world.”

Instead, schools should offer students who miss a walkout-related test a chance to take it at another time, Hamiel said, or offer them an alternative assignment.

5. Will participating hurt my chance of getting into college?

Several colleges — from Yale to Tulane to UCLA — have already come out and told prospective students that unexcused absences or other consequences resulting from the walkout won’t affect their admission into the schools. But there’s no guarantee other schools won’t take a different tact. If a college does hold participation in the walkout against an applicant, there’s not much a student can do — except maybe apply to another school.

6. Can my parents sign me out of class for the walkout?

It’s OK for parents to take their children out of school for the time period of the walkout or for the entire school day, if they so wish, our experts agreed. Of course, the motivations may be different. Some parents will sign their children out to take part in the walkout, while others will take them out to get them away from it.

7. Do I have to stay on my campus when I walk out?

Students don’t lose their First Amendment rights when they step off campus, and schools can’t force students to stay on campus during the walkout. But schools most certainly hope they do because of safety concerns. Once students leave campus, the school doesn’t have control of the situation anymore.

Wizner urges students to check on school policies before making such a move because “schools might have difference policies for missing class versus leaving school property without permission.”

8. If I go to a private school, what are my rights?

None under the First Amendment while in school. So, says Hamiel, “private schools have a little bit more leeway in telling students ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about taking part in the walkout.” Those students must adhere to their school’s policies, which might outright forbid them from taking part in the walkout.

9. I’m not a US citizen. Do I still have the First Amendment right to protest?

Both Wizner and Hamiel (referring specifically to students in Wisconsin where she practices law) say as far as the walkout is concerned, non-citizen students are viewed as having the same rights as the citizen students they are protesting with — as least while the walkout or protest stays on campus.

“They have the same rights, but where they should be cautious, is in participating in off-campus stuff,” said Wizner. “Not only would they have to deal with criminal law (if something happened during the protest off-campus) but they might have to deal with immigration law as well.”

Meaning, if they’re undocumented, they could possibly draw attention from federal immigration agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

10. What happens if I don’t want to walk out?

Students who don’t want to join the walkout — either because they don’t agree with the cause, just don’t want their school day interrupted or whatever — shouldn’t be punished or retaliated against in anyway. “This is not a legal question, Wizner said, “but all students should have the right to remain in a safe school environment.”

Schools need to make sure students understand they’re under no obligation to participate in the walkouts. “Schools should be proactive ensuring that students know .. that if you don’t want to participate that you’re not required to do so,” Hamiel said. On the day of the walkout school leaders need to make sure their priority is on teaching.

11. Can a teacher join us in the walkout?

Now this is a little tricky. Most schools have policies that allow teachers to take part in political causes, but on their own time and not when they are working for their school district.

Schools have a right to require teachers to teach during school hours, Wizner said, and “teachers would have a very limited First Amendment right to participate in a walkout during school hours for a political cause.”

But schools may actually want teachers out with their students during the protests. “Some districts will say to teachers, ‘we want you to supervise the students,'” Hamiel said. “So some teachers will accompany students” during the walkout for safety.

™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


J. Alexander Kueng, the former Minneapolis police officer who assisted in the fatal restraint of Ge...
Ray Sanchez and Brad Parks, CNN

Former police officer who helped restrain George Floyd sentenced to 3.5 years in prison

A former Minneapolis police officer who assisted in the fatal restraint of George Floyd was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison Friday for his role in the killing.
22 hours ago
Russia's President Putin In Bishkek For The Eurasian Economic Union Summit...
Tim Lister, CNN

Putin floats possibility that Russia may abandon ‘no first use’ nuclear doctrine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the second time this week, floated the possibility that Russia may formally change its military doctrine of not being the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.
22 hours ago
JIm Beam is selling hug-simulating pajamas for the holidays.
Mandatory Credit:	Jim Beam...
Parija Kavilanz, CNN

Jim Beam offers novel fix for holiday blues: hug-simulating pajamas

Bourbon brand Jim Beam is offering what could possibly be the weirdest gift for the holidays — hug-simulating pajamas.
22 hours ago
Patrick Giblin in an undated arrest photo. He portrayed himself to women as a wealthy romantic look...
Faith Karimi, CNN

A fake Romeo charmed over 100 women, then scammed them

Patrick Giblin was like the American version of the "Tinder Swindler" -- but without the private jets.
22 hours ago
Oil prices jump 4% after the Keystone Pipeline was shut down following a leak. Pictured is the pipe...
Matt Egan, CNN Business

Keystone Pipeline shuts down after oil leak, halting flow of 600K barrels a day

The Keystone Pipeline has been shut down following a leak discovered near the border of Kansas and Nebraska.
22 hours ago
A woman is pushing a patient bed through a hospital hallway....
Deidre McPhillips, CNN

Hospitals in the US are the fullest they’ve been throughout the pandemic — but it’s not just COVID-19

(CNN) — Hospitals are more full than they’ve been throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a CNN analysis of data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. But as respiratory virus season surges across the US, it’s much more than Covid that’s filling beds this year. More than 80% of hospital beds are […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
If you’re planning to take part in national school walkout, read this