Validating Student Voice

 

Supreme Court Ruling: “Students do not shed constitutional rights of freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines, February 24, 1969.  (Unless their acts of expression are disruptive to the educational process.)

Many of the key participants in the Revolutionary War were surprisingly young:

  • Marquis de Lafayette, 18
  • James Monroe, 18
  • Gilbert Stuart, 20
  • Aaron Burr, 20
  • Alexander Hamilton, 21
  • Betsy Ross, 24
  • James Madison, 25

Young people, like the students in our schools and universities.  However, unlike the founding fathers our informational world has shrunk.  Students today are much more aware of global affairs and have key-stroke access to myriads of up-to-the-minute information.  They are socially conscious, they are articulate, creative thinkers, and they don’t want to be murdered in their schools.

In 2012, when 26 were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, we gasped in horror.  Even POTUS wept as he met with loved ones of those lost. Yet, school shootings continued.  The recent heinous act in Parkland, Florida, awakened teens across the country.  When I was in Houston earlier this week, my high school teacher/coach niece said her students were suddenly aware.  “Mrs. Cook, Parkland is so similar to us.  It could happen here at TJHS!”

With this new realization, students have held walkouts–all peaceful, most of them where they stood silently for 17 minutes in remembrance of the 17 lost in Parkland.  Thankfully, most school leaders worked with students to ensure their safety by opening their football fields, gymnasiums, or auditoriums to allow the kids to gather for 17 minutes.  Of course, there are a handful of schools who chose to suspend student participants–stupid. A teachable moment lost.

Many of the these high schoolers will vote in 2018.  They will outlive you and me.  We should guide and applaud their activism in hope our world will be a safer, kinder, and more inclusive place than it is now.

Who wants to go dump some tea in Boston Harbor?

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