Thousands of students from schools across Western Washington walked out of class in solidarity with a national demonstration against gun violence on Wednesday.
Here is some information about the rights the students have and the actions that school districts could take against them.
Can a school punish a student for participating?
In the landmark Tinker v. Des Moines case, the Supreme Court ruled students don't "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
But in the state of Washington, any student who ditches class for a protest can receive an unexcused absence on their school record. The American Civil Liberties Union staff said in a statement on Monday that "schools cannot suspend a student to punish a first-time unexcused absence."
If a student already has more than one unexcused absence, the issue could become one of truancy.
What do local school districts say?
Seattle: Seattle Public School said that, while it supports students' First Amendment Rights, it encourages students to stay on campus. Schools will be required by law to give students an unexcused absence.
"First because of safety; second because state law requires such absences to be unexcused. If students do leave campus, staff will observe in an attempt to keep students safe but will not be leading the event," SPS wrote on its website.
Following an unexcused absence, students do not have the right to make up schoolwork, according to SPS. The opportunity to make up work will be at the discretion of the principal and classroom teacher.
Seattle parents and students can read more about student civic engagement here.
Everett: Everett school officials say they will follow state law: Any student who walks out will receive an unexcused absence.
Scroll down to keep reading.
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Tacoma: Students who want to leave school to participate must have a parent or guardian write a note.
Students who participate in protests without written parental permission will be marked with an unexcused absence.
The district does not plan other disciplinary actions for missing class, and students will be responsible for making up missed class work.
Tacoma parents and students can read more about student civic engagement here.
How are students kept safe during a walkout?
SPS wrote that when students leave campus, the district can no longer ensure student safety. When a school or the district learns about a planned walkout or any instance in which groups of students might be departing campus, the district’s Safety and Security Department works closely with the Seattle Police Department to monitor the safety of students traveling away from campus.
What happens if the walkout turns disruptive?
CNN reported that schools can stop students from participating if a walkout turns disruptive. Also, students will be held accountable, as anyone else in a demonstration would be, if they break any laws, such as by blocking a street during a protest.
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