Students presenting represented a broad range of political views, and we were impressed by their collective energy, and the collaborative intentions of students who are not aligned by political party, but unified in their desire to march against school violence, to show solidarity with their peers in Florida, and to have a common sense discussion about gun control. Regardless of their ideologies, they are unified in their desire to take part in the National Student Walkout. Further, students are creating a banner filled with positive messages for the students of Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a student-organized voter registration drive will be held during lunch periods.
On March 14th, we are planning a regular day of school. Classes will dismiss as regularly scheduled, and students will head to Advisory just as they usually would. Students participating in the walkout will proceed to the designated area for the walkout, and students not participating will go to their Advisory.
To ensure the safety of all students and staff, community access to the campus during this time is not allowed. Both roadways leading to the campus will be blocked by police for the duration of the walkout, and members of the press will not have access to the campus during school hours. At the end of Advisory, students are expected to report to their regularly scheduled class. Attendance will be taken in “C” block, and students late for class are responsible for the impact of their absence.
As a school, we shoulder a portion of the educational responsibility assisting CCHS students in understanding the balance between free speech and assembly, as well as the difference between civil disobedience and school disruption.
The law is relatively clear on the matter. In the Supreme Court’s landmark case, Tinker v. Des Moines the Court held that students have a constitutional right to freedom of speech while at school and on school grounds, and this freedom of speech right must be balanced against maintaining orderliness in the school environment. Employing these standards, the Court’s baseline provides schools with the latitude to regulate freedom of speech if it will likely result in a substantial disruption of the educational process; material interference with school activities; or invasion of the rights of others.
Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote the opinion on this case, and it features the often quoted phrase, “it can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Students are typically not allowed to walkout of school and protest without consequence. This is a national event, however, with considerable momentum nationally and locally, and it is our intention to ensure it is done in an orderly and safe manner.
Concord Carlisle High School is neither sanctioning nor endorsing the event. As you might imagine, I have received several emails from community members representing all sides of this issue. Some will conclude that allowing students to walkout without facing disciplinary measures is passive endorsement; however, hundreds of students are committed to participating and we are committed to ensuring it is a safe event for all involved. At the conclusion of Advisory, students are expected in their respective classes and the school day will continue to operate as planned.
We insist that whether taking part in the walkout or going to Advisory, all students are expected to treat all of their classmates with respect, dignity, and to exercise their constitutional rights with proper decorum and respect. Students are not to be pressured to participate, and those attending are not to be derided for doing so.
As I have said often, we need to wake up every day with the intention of contributing to the well being of others. This standard applies every day, and March 14th is no exception. We encourage you to discuss these matters with your child and hope you will contact us directly should you have any questions or concerns not addressed in this correspondence.
Michael J. Mastrullo