The ENOUGH National School Walkout swept the nation on Wednesday, with students across America walking out of their schools and maintaining 17 minutes of silence in remembrance of the lives lost in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last month.
Rough estimates from the organizers of the walkout (Women’s March Youth EMPOWER) claim that 1 million people participated. Many schools and districts allowed the movement—New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even endorsed it—but some schools were not as enthusiastic about the student-led protest.
Ranging from detentions to suspensions, schools across the country are penalizing their students for participating in the walkout. Greenville County, the largest school district in South Carolina, is reprimanding over 500 students who walked out of their schools on Wednesday. Pennridge High School in Perkasie, Pennsylvania plans to assign detentions to their protesters, with more than 200 students having passed on the school’s assembly to join the national movement. A student at McKeel Academy in Florida recorded a video of her principal threatening detention for participants.
At Park Hill High School in Missouri, students were able to walk out. However, they returned to find their classrooms locked. The school’s principal lectured students unable to get back into their classrooms, telling them, "I want you to know that society sometimes values your speech or your activity by how important it is to you and if this act comes without a consequence then it doesn't seem very important."
Other schools physically blocked students from leaving the building to participate. Childers Middle School in Broken Arrow Oklahoma had an unannounced tornado drill, one that didn’t follow typical protocol. A 13-year-old student told Buzzfeed Newst, “Typically in a tornado drill they have us sit in the corner or under our desk with our heads covered, but this time we just sat at our desk on our phones and the other classes just stood there.”
Those disciplinary actions pale in comparison to the actions of Sayreville, New Jersey’s public schools, where the administration told students that they would be suspended for two days if they left and would receive detention for attending a rally students held in the gym. Only twelve students walked out. They intended to walk out to the football field, but the gate was locked. They did stay outside for the entire 17 minutes. A student told local news that upon reviewing the school’s handbook, she learned that insubordination is only supposed to incur a detention, while skipping class would be maximally a Saturday detention.
According to the ACLU, schools are not allowed to discipline students more harshly for a politically motivated absence than any other absence.