Ohio ACLU says don't punish students who walkout Wednesday - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Ohio ACLU says don't punish students who walkout Wednesday

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The Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is asking school officials not to punish students who take part in Wednesday's National School Walkout.

In an open letter to school superintendents, principals and teachers across the state, the ACLU says that while schools may designate students who walk out from class as unexcused or truant, the ACLU is urging educators to use the event as a teachable moment.

"Scores of young people across Ohio and the nation will use their voices to speak out on an important social issue this week and that should be celebrated," said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director J. Bennett Guess. "No matter where a person stands on gun control, these actions represent exactly what educators want their students to be - civically engaged and passionate."

Organizers are calling on students, teachers, school administrators, parents, and supporters to walk out of schools around the nation for 17 minutes, symbolizing the seventeen deaths during shootings at a Florida school.

While some school officials in the Valley have scheduled alternatives to walking out Wednesday morning, many note that the schools have a legal obligation to keep students safe and in the classroom.

The ACLU says students' First Amendment rights are protected while in school, adding that political speech, such as wearing clothing with messages, circulating petitions, and distributing literature is protected so long as it does not disrupt the learning environment.

According to the ACLU, walkouts are considered civil disobedience because young people are required by law to attend school; however, they may not be punished more severely than other students because of their speech.

School officials are not required by law to punish students for walking out of class, says the ACLU.

"Students' actions during such political moments, and the lessons they learn will stay with them throughout their lives," Guess concludes. "Public schools are essential in educating young people about democracy, and that includes their role in enacting it."

The ACLU's open letter may be read here

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