School protects legal right to protest

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When news of Canyon High’s walkout broke, Facebook erupted with misunderstanding.

“These kids just want a day out of school, they aren’t doing this out of respect for anyone or anything.”

“Most of the students can’t vote and should be worried about school not politics.”

“This is disgraceful.”

“This is not the CHS I graduated from.”

“I hope no student walks out.”

“Anything to get out of class.”

On April 20, 2018, students across America walked out of class to promote preventing gun violence and to honor the students killed in school shootings. Approximately 25 students from Canyon High decided to participate by organizing a local chapter of the national movement. 

The original plan consisted of walking out the front doors, but Principal Tim Gilliland and student organizers came to an agreement: students could walk out into the breezeway during activity period, a half-hour dedicated to club meetings, tutoring, pep rallies and other activities. The compromise allowed students to participate without missing classes or disrupting school while staying safe. 

The compromise allowed students to participate without missing classes or disrupting school while staying safe.”

— Katelyn Spivey, 11

The students did not plan the event for April 20 as an excuse to skip class and smoke marijuana, despite the coincidence. The date was set because of the Columbine school shooting on April 20, 1999.

CISD administration did not organize the event. Because the walk out did not affect the educational process, students were legally allowed to participate freely without consequence, unless they were late to third period. Students may do so because of the ruling from the Supreme Court in the “Tinker v. Des Moines” case.

In Dec. 1965, in the midst of the Vietnam War debate, a group of students, including 13-year-old Mary Beth Tinker, planned to wear black armbands to school in protest of the war. After the school board discovered the plan, they made an announcement that any student wearing the armbands at school must remove it and faced suspension for non-compliance. Tinker and four other students were asked to leave school for not removing their armbands and not return until the planned end of the protest. When they did return, it was in all black clothing in continued protest.

The school did not force students to walk out.”

— Katelyn Spivey, 11

With parental help, the students sued the school district for violating the students’ right of expression, but the case was dismissed. Eventually, the case advanced to the Supreme Court. On Feb. 24, 1969, the court ruled 7-2 students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” School officials cannot legally prohibit students from protesting or expressing their opinions unless it is a substantial disruption to school.

Judging from comments from various social media sites, many in the Canyon community are unhappy with the students’ decisions to walk out. However, it is just that–the student’s decision. The students made a choice to participate or not. Even though focus was on the main protest, another started a counterprotest consisting of approximately eight students. Despite backlash from the original protest, students voiced their opinions. They made a choice.

The school did not force students to walk out. The school did not plan the walkout. The students did not disrupt school. They decided to voice their opinions.

The administration of CHS has demonstrated they understand not everyone agrees politically, but they understand the importance of allowing students the right to express their opinions peacefully. With any walkout open to all students, there will be those who will go with the flow, who don’t really care about the issues, but many of the students feel strongly about political matters and are well versed in the issues. We are young, but the Supreme Court agrees time and time again, age does not negate protection under the First Amendment.

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