A nationwide student walkout is taking place today (Wednesday) to mark the one-month anniversary of the horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people, 14 of them high school students.
Some local students are taking part. The point is to call attention to gun violence in schools.
Pressure from Parkland students led to the recent passage of a Florida state law that imposes a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases and raises the legal age for gun purchases to 21. It also allows the arming of some school employees, although teachers are mostly excluded.
This exercise in public advocacy has to be the best educational activity the Parkland students have participated in during their school careers. By following their lead, other students nationwide are learning what it means to be a politically participating citizen in a democracy.
You never learn as much by talking about something or reading about it as you do by doing it. That is why it’s important, in Florida and elsewhere, that the students themselves are taking the lead, planning their own demonstrations.
Some school leaders get it. In Queensbury, for instance, after school administrators learned students were planning something, they agreed to cooperate so they could be assured the event was safe.
But the students planned the event, and not every student has to participate, because this is a voluntary event, not an official one.
In South Glens Falls, in contrast, the school administration has scheduled an official activity that will be part of the school day. The agenda has been set by school officials, and the events will be led by school staff. Instead of facilitating a student-run event, the school administration has co-opted it, limiting opportunities for students to feel empowered.
Also, South High Principal Pete Moody said something silly in reference to a student walkout: “Someone could know, with great certainty, that South High students will be outside and vulnerable at that day and time and this is a scenario that I am not willing to risk.”
It hardly needs to be said that “someone” can know South High students will be streaming out from the school buildings and vulnerable at the end of every school day.
In the Hadley-Luzerne district, Superintendent Beecher Baker has taken an unfortunate stance against any student participation, saying students who take part in a walkout will be disciplined.
He suggested a walkout during a class period was “divisive,” because some students would participate and some wouldn’t. He also said the school should not get involved in politics.
Teachers and administrators should not be foisting their personal politics, whatever they are, onto students — we agree with Baker on that.
But this issue — school shootings — is one that greatly concerns public high school students. It is a very good sign for our democracy that our young citizens want to make a difference on issues that concern them.
The Parkland students have set a great example by moving on from their shared trauma with energy and passion to make positive changes in our society. They have already partly succeeded with the passage of the gun control and school safety bill in Florida.
This is Sunshine Week, when members of the press celebrate the freedom they are guaranteed by the First Amendment. The First Amendment also guarantees freedom of speech and the right of the people “peaceably to assemble.” This is an opportunity for schools to impress upon students the importance of the Bill of Rights, and there can be no better way to do than by allowing students to exercise those rights.
Local editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rob Forcey, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representatives Bob Tatko, Carol Merchant and Eric Mondschein.