As political action groups intensify their push for student walkouts that protest for stricter gun control laws following the Parkland, Florida, high school shootings, two more Texas school districts are standing their ground against using class time for demonstrations.
Last week, Breitbart Texas reported that Needville Independent School District Superintendent Curtis Rhodes alerted families that while they remain “very sensitive to violence in schools including the recent incident in Florida” students will not be allowed to participate in what he described as a ‘movement’ attempting to stage walkouts/disruptions of the school through social media and/or other media outlets.”
Over the weekend, Seguin High School Principal Hector Esquivel posted on social media that they will not participate in upcoming “national and grassroots efforts encouraging students to participate in ‘walkouts’ as a form of protest in the coming weeks.”
To date, several prominent gun control school protests emerged. Among them, the National School Walkout on March 14. It is organized by the youth branch of the Women’s March on Washington. Another, March for our Lives, is scheduled for March 24. The National Walkout for Gun Reform will take place on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine massacre. Indivisible, the leftist movement mobilizing to “resist” the Trump Administration agenda and promote “reactionary change,” hosts “Find a National School Walkout” on their website.
In his letter, Esquivel wrote, “While peaceful protest can be effective, we do not condone disrupting the school day by leaving school in this manner.” He encouraged students to instead “write their elected officials or participate in peaceful protest outside of the school day.”
Esquivel said “to discourage walkouts and ensure that our students do not lose valuable instructional time” a student walkout will be considered a violation of the districts’s attendance regulations cited in their Student Code of Conduct. This carries a minimum punishment of one day of in-school suspension (ISS).
On Monday, Seguin ISD spokesman Sean Hoffmann told Breitbart Texas the district emailed this letter to parents on Friday. He added, “The Student Code of Conduct information is not new, having been in place since the beginning of the school year.”
Seguin ISD is located approximately 36 miles northeast of San Antonio and enrolls nearly 7,500 students, according to Superintendent Matthew Gutierrez. On February 16, he posted a letter on the school district’s website expressing his sympathy for the “senseless loss of lives” in the Parkland shootings. He advised Seguin ISD implemented active shooter training for all students at the onset of the 2017-18 school year and perform monthly safety drills to “ingrain” techniques students learn through ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. It simulates active shooter scenarios in schools to teach students better strategies if confronted with this terrifying situation.
In San Antonio, North East ISD sent home a similar letter on Thursday. They told students the district will handle walkouts and protests that interfere with class time the same way “it always has” as an unexcused absence. A protesting student will not receive credit for any missed work. The district will not accept parent requests to excuse a student who participates in walkouts instead of coming to school.
“While we understand people are passionate on all sides of the issues stemming from events in Florida, we cannot allow students to disrupt the learning environment during school hours,” stated the North East ISD letter. “If students wish to protest, they may do so in a peaceful manner before or after the regular school day.”
Not everyone agreed. KENS 5 reported a San Antonio woman, Molly Cox, redlined portions of the North East ISD letter, substituting it with pro-protest verbiage. Then, she posted it to her personal Facebook page and wrote, “Fixed it.”
Cox edited the district’s stance to instead read they will handle protests “with support and acceptance.” She inserted, “Understanding the importance of civic engagement and civil disobedience is a fantastic opportunity for our students to see the collective power of their actions.”
Cox, also the CEO and president of SA2020, changed North East ISD’s suggestion that students protest peacefully before and after the school day to say, “We support our students in their own journey to find their political voices and welcome this experiential learning environment.”
In 2014, Breitbart Texas reported former San Antonio Mayor and Obama cabinet appointee Julian Castro created SA2020, a progressive “community vision” for the city to achieve by the year 2020. The program since morphed into a nonprofit partnership with goals for improvement to the city’s education, environment, arts, culture, transportation, and family life.
Another North East ISD critic, San Antonio criminal defense attorney Steven Gilmore, offered pro bono legal representation to Bexar County students who get suspended, expelled, or arrested for participating in upcoming protests. “Don’t let schools bully you or your children into silence,” tweeted Gilmore.
If any students in Bexar Co. are suspended or expelled or even arrested for participating in the 3/14 school walkout or any similar demonstration, contact me for pro bono representation. Don’t let schools bully you or your children into silence.
— Steven Gilmore (@sgilmorelaw) February 23, 2018
Last year, Gilmore offered free legal defense to anyone arrested during San Antonio protests in a January 27 tweet that ended with #solidarity #resist. Six days earlier, local activists protested, an extension of the Women’s March on Washington against President Donald Trump one day after his inauguration.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.