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Related Categories: California | Anti-War
Bay Area Student Protestors Threatened by Administrators/Teachers Over National Walkout
by R. Robertson
Thursday Mar 22nd, 2018 3:14 AM
In the San Francisco Bay Area thousands participated in a national walkout against gun violence, with 1500 leaving school to march in the suburb of Menlo Park alone. However, not all went smoothly for some Bay Area students seeking to express their opinions on March 14th.
Guns are the third-leading cause of death for children in America (behind illnesses and accidental deaths from car crashes and drownings.) After the Parkland, Florida mass shooting, students organized for a national day of action, the #Enough National School Walkout. In the San Francisco Bay Area thousands participated in the walkout, with 1500 doing so in the San Francisco suburb of Menlo Park alone.

However, not all went smoothly for some Bay Area students seeking to express their opinion on March 14th. In at least one case, a school administrator said students were being “used as pawns”.

Chris Funk, superintendent of East Side Union High School District (San Jose), said that school administrators should allow on-campus events where students could speak. However, the Mercury News quoted Funk as saying, “Organizations have their own agendas and they’re using kids as pawns…I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying students need to understand what they’re walking out on.” He also said students need “to be clear on what they’re advocating for.”

In the East Bay, students at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord pushed through a gate to march off campus for the 10am protest after the school locked its gates saying that parents would not want their students to leave campus. School administrators chased after the students, insisting that they return to campus and threatening to call their parents. They then relocked the gates.

Similar infringements of students’ first amendment rights were reported in the Mercury News as well. At Santa Teresa High School in San Jose, principal Greg Louie sent a note to families saying that “if students leave campus, we will not restrain them, but they will receive a Saturday School referral for violating the closed campus policy.”

In other cases, individual teachers threatened students with consequences if they missed class in order to demonstrate. At Evergreen Valley High School in San Jose, some students said teachers had threatened to give them no credit for missed assignments or assign them Saturday school for unexcused absences. At C.T. English Middle School in Los Gatos, a teacher gave a student who walked out of class during a quiz a grade of F. Although the principal of the school had admonished teachers to not penalize students who walked out, the teacher punished the student because he disagreed with the students’ position in favor of restrictions on guns. The teacher, David Kissner, told the Mercury News on March 19th that the Loma Prieta Joint Union School District "bent over backwards in order to promote and encourage" students to participate in the classroom walkouts.

Milpitas Union School District Superintendent Cheryl Jordan went so far as to say that leaving campus to participate in political activity is an irresponsible way to work for change; she warned parents in emails that students who choose to walk off campus on the 14th would face penalties. Despite these threats, a group of hundreds that included school staff members walked out at 10 am and marched to the Milipitas Police Station where they demonstrated against gun violence.