When I heard last week that students from my alma mater, Pennridge High School, received Saturday detention for their participation in the National Student Walkout, marking one month from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting in Parkland, Florida, I had one reaction: shame.
District spokesman Joe Ferry’s labeling of the act as “civil disobedience” is misguided and offensive — offensive to the students and faculty killed in school shootings, and offensive to the students around the country who are raising their voices in unison calling for their representatives to do more to protect them. Rather than a disruption to education, the walkout is about protecting education — protecting students’ right to attend school without fear. Rather than an act of civil disobedience, it is an act of civil engagement.
School districts like Pennridge should encourage students’ political activism and participation in government. Democracy only works when it is representative of the people’s voices, and children and adolescents have as much right to be heard as any other citizen.
The walkout itself was an educational opportunity to teach students more about civics, active engagement, and integrity.
I remember when the Columbine shooting took place. I was an 8th grader at Central Middle School. That event changed my perception of school and school safety. I am amazed by the students in Parkland and around the country and how quickly they have organized to call for change. Rather than punish the students who participated, the district should consider how it can further empower students and help them develop into the leaders this country needs.
Bonnie Berry, Pennridge class of 2004, lives in Brooklyn, New York.