Learning to walk


Since when have one-sided political protests been sanctioned during class time in Wakefield Public Schools?

Next Wednesday at 10 a.m., at least some students plan to “walk out” of Wakefield Memorial High School “to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”

The school administration plans to allow this protest during school hours.

The flyers being sent around on social media by the national organizers of this March 14 protest openly call for legislation to further restrict guns. The online flyer for the local WMHS walkout explicitly states that the purpose of the protest is to “advocate gun control.”

However you slice it, that is a political stand and this is a political protest from top to bottom, from the national level down to the local level.

Of course students are emotionally upset over the school massacre in Parkland, Florida several weeks ago. Everyone is. But this is not an emotional gesture. This isn’t a moment of silence before class for the victims. It’s not an after-school prayer vigil (God forbid) for those who died.

I figured out that such thoughtful gestures were off the table after I saw that the national protest organizers chose to mock those who offer their thoughts and prayers in the wake of these kinds of horrific events.

The tone of the flyer is all the evidence you need that this is a purely political protest. In the wake of the killings, the derision directed toward those offering “thoughts and prayers” for victims has come from one side, and one side only, of the political spectrum.

This is a clear political protest with a clear political strategy and a clear political objective.

Someone can refresh my memory, but if political protests have been sanctioned in Wakefield Public Schools during school hours before this, I don’t remember any.

There are differing views on what should be done about gun violence. Calling for more anti-gun legislation is only one approach. It is the only viewpoint that will be represented in next week’s protest, which has at least the tacit blessing of the school administration. An email sent out from the administration makes that much clear.

“While there will be no disciplinary consequences associated with students walking out on the 14th for this orderly event,” the email states, “other actions outside of this event may be subject to discipline.”

One wonders if such a hands-off approach would be taken with regard to other kinds of political protest. Would a group of students who wanted to stage an orderly walkout to protest gender-neutral bathrooms be accorded the same forbearance?

The email from the administration says that, “No student should feel pressured or coerced to participate in the walkout.” I hope that’s the case. No kid should be told by another student that if he doesn’t participate he “doesn’t care about dead children.”

Gun control in the United States is a complex issue and there are many thoughtful opinions on all sides of the political spectrum. How many of these opposing viewpoints have students been exposed to?

Like it or not, the right to bear arms is still in the United States Constitution. I wonder how many students really understand how high a bar must be met before a Constitutional right can be repealed.

Regardless of how bright and “woke” our students are, we generally don’t look to them to set school policy, much less public policy. (This is the generation that gave us the Tide Pod Challenge, after all.)

Sadly, however, this kind of activism will probably be seen as a plus on college applications. (The protesting, not the noshing on Tide Pods.)

However ill-advised, it looks like next Thursday’s student protest/walkout will happen. But it sets a bad precedent.

Let’s hope that the administration meant it when it said that “other actions outside of this event may be subject to discipline.”

I’ll believe it when I see it.

[This column originally appeared in the March 8, 2018 Wakefield Daily Item.]

One Response to “Learning to walk”

  1. 1 Anthony Antetomaso

    Excellent column, Mark. I was wondering all of this myself as I was reading the story in the Item. It seems to me the students are getting 17 mins off school; the teachers are getting 17 mins off teaching; but taxpayers will still be charged the full boat; parents will be shortchanged on 17 minutes worth of alleged education and lawful, peaceful gun owners will have a 17-minute tax-payer funded assault on their God-given rights. All coordinated by the wacko-leftist public-sector-union leftist dictatorship-wanting citizen disarming cabal, I’m my humble opinion.

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