LPSS issues statement on cancellation of voluntary walkout - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

LPSS issues statement on cancellation of voluntary walkout

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Lafayette Parish School System Lafayette Parish School System

The Lafayette Parish School Board made a decision Wednesday night to reverse the Superintendent's decision on the walkout to commemorate the 17 students and teachers killed last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  

However, they say students who do decide to participate in the protest can do so, if they are respectful and do not disturb other classmates. 

On March 1, the Lafayette Parish School System (LPSS) issued a statement in support of students participating in National School Walkout, scheduled for March 14 without fear of disciplinary consequences. But the school board reversed that position last night, and today LPSS issued a new statement about the issue: 

Moment of Silence—March 14, 2018

At the regular school board meeting of March 7, 2018, board members approved the following action: “…in lieu of the 17 minute walk-out, scheduled March 14, that all schools in Lafayette Parish provide a 1 minute moment of silence, following the morning announcements, to honor the victims of the Florida School Shooting. In addition to the moment of silence, students and staff shall be allowed, and are encouraged to wear a blue shirt with blue jeans, or a uniform bottom, on the same day, as a symbol of peace and in remembrance of the victims.” Based on this action, after the 1 minute of silence in the morning, regular classroom instruction should take place for the remainder of the school day. Administrators and teachers should emphasize to students that they are expected to remain in class for instruction. In the event that students choose to walk out, students and parents must be aware that conduct which materially disrupts classwork or substantially invades the rights of others is not protected by the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Behavior that is respectful and does not disrupt the educational process is allowed by the Constitution. Schools administrators should be prepared to have faculty and staff available to monitor hallways and designated gathering areas in case additional supervision is needed. 

The ACLU has issued several statements about the legal limits of school systems' power in controlling students' protests. 

Jane Johnson, Interim Executive Director of the ACLU and ACLU Foundation of Louisiana, said any discipline applied in this case can't be different than discipline applied in any other case of students skipping class. 

"You can't be disciplined differently because of the message you're supporting," Johnson said. "If there is a rule, it has to be applied to these students the same way it is applied to any other student." 

Johnson reviewed the statement above, issued this morning by LPSS.

"The statement doesn't seem to be 100% correct," she said. "For example, none of the limitations are applicable to this sort of walk-out. If they walk out quietly for 17 minutes and return, that doesn't substantially invade the rights of others, it doesn't disrupt the educational process, it's entirely respectful, and the educational process continues in the building. If they want to walk out quietly and return, there's no disruption." 

Since the statement was released, we talked to Chief Administrative Officer Joe Craig for clarification; he told us that, if students leave class quietly, assemble quietly and don't disrupt class or disturb students who chose not to participate, they won't be disciplined. 

Here's a link to an ACLU video explaining students' rights in these cases. 

Here's part of a post from Vera Eidelman, the William J. Brennan fellow with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. She's a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School. You can read the entire post by clicking here. 

Students around the country are turning the heartbreaking school shooting in Parkland, Florida, into an inspiring and exemplary push for legislative change. In the last few days, many people have asked whether schools can discipline students for speaking out. The short answer? It depends on when, where, and how the students decide to express themselves.

Plans for coordinated student walkouts have been making national news and have already engendered disciplinary threats from some school administrators. Since the law in virtually all jurisdictions requires students to go to school, schools can typically discipline students for missing class, even if they’re doing so to participate in a protest or otherwise express themselves. But what the school can’t do is discipline students more harshly because they are walking out to express a political view or because school administrators don’t support the views behind the protest. In other words, any disciplinary action for walking out cannot be a response to the content of the protest.?

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