As students across the country pledge to take part in demonstrations in the coming weeks to demand stricter gun control after last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, one Houston-area school district is facing criticism after announcing that students will be punished for participating in protests.
Needville Independent School District superintendent Curtis Rhodes sent a letter home to families saying that students will be suspended should they take part in the national school walkouts that are planned for March 14 and April 20.
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“Please be advised that the Needville ISD will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness!!” Rhodes wrote. “Should students choose to do so, they will be suspended from school for three days and face all the consequences that come along with an out of school suspension.
The threat provoked outcry from students in the district as well as others on social media.
Rhodes’ warning came just after a 14-year-old student in the school district was arrested for posting an alleged threat of violence on the social media app Snapchat. The student posted an image of a shotgun with a caption that was perceived as a warning to classmates.
In contrast with Needville’s threats, the Leon County School District, which oversees schools in Tallahassee, Florida, is urging students to join in “exercising their freedoms” on Wednesday as students from Parkland hold a demonstration at the state capitol building. All Tallahassee students who join the rally will be excused from school.
The school walkouts that Needville students are barred from participating in will take place on March 14 and April 20. The protest on March 14, organized by Women’s March, will begin at 10:00am, with students, teacher, and administrators leaving school for 17 minutes, to represent the 17 people who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last week.
On April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, participants will observe 17 minutes of silence before students speak out against legislators’ refusal to pass gun control laws that experts say would help to prevent mass shootings. The demonstration was organized by a 15-year-old student from Ridgefield, Connecticut and has gained support across the country.
Another action, on March 24, will involve a “March for Our Lives” in Washington, D.C. as well as sister marches in cities and towns throughout the country.