Allow Students to Demonstrate Politically Without Threat of Suspension

Target: Dennis Perry, Principal of Cherry Hill High School East

Goal: Allow students to be politically active without threat of suspension.

High schoolers’ right to demonstrate is being threatened in New Jersey. In response to the Parkland school shooting that left 17 people dead, many high schools have been planning walkouts and other organized political demonstrations to stand in solidarity with the students of Parkland in demanding gun control laws that will prevent gun violence in schools. However, many students across the nation have faced pushback from administration that causes them to choose between demonstrating their demand for a change to gun laws and school security policies and their clean school records. In New Jersey, Cherry Hill High School East’s principal Dennis Perry said that students who wanted to have their voices heard regarding gun control could meet with him in the auditorium during a scheduled time and that anyone who participated in the “planned disruption” of classes would be suspended. While this announcement was being made, a pre-planned sit-in demonstration that was already being carried out by students in the school’s main hallways.

Perry said over the loudspeakers, “I am assuming that the purpose of the planned disruption was out of frustration because it was felt as though you were not being heard. Well, I do want you to have that opportunity to be heard, and I do want to hear you. Please know that those of you who opt into some sort of civil disobedience will be immediately suspended and you will lose your senior trip and prom if you are in 12th grade.”

The protest that was planned at Cherry Hill High School East was in support of teacher Timothy Locke. Locke was suspended after raising concerns about security at the school in the wake of the Parkland shooting. While having voices heard by those in power is an important aspect of any movement, being able to demonstrate publicly is equally important for spreading awareness. Sign this petition to urge Principal Perry to allow students to be politically active without the threat of suspension.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Principal Perry,

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, a teacher at your school raised concerns about school security and was suspended for his actions. In response, the students of Cherry Hill High School East planned a sit-in demonstration in support of this teacher and his views. While the sit-in was already underway, you made an announcement stating that students could have an audience with you during a scheduled time but that they could not participate in any disruption of classes. If they participated in any of these disruptions, they would be suspended and lose senior privileges where applicable.

This situation is unfair first and foremost because the consequences were not known by the students before their participation in the sit-in. Furthermore, the administrative response to the students’ sit-in fails to recognize the educational richness of political engagement. In planning the sit-in demonstration, students had to engage with current events, develop an informed opinion, and then convene to express their opinions in a peaceful way. This is education unfolding in the real world. I urge you to allow students the opportunity to engage in political activism without threat of suspension.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Jrcla2

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4 Comments

  1. Gen Agustsson says:

    thats not fair to students who need freedom of speech

  2. Let them exercise their free speech on their own time. They are in school to learn as they are going to be expected to be tomorrow’s leaders. As an aside, I have to wonder how many would be demonstrating if it was held on a Saturday!!

  3. So what about Freedom of Speech?
    Is Freedom not what America fights for in foreign lands?

    • What about freedom of speech? There wasn’t any restriction on their rights…they don’t have the right to leave school, on a school day, during school hours, to excercise their right to free speech. If one of my kids had done this they would regret it as soon as I found out about it.

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