Superintendent says CSD supports right of students to protest, but warns of consequences

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt February 27, 2018

David Dude. Photo provided by City Schools of Decatur

This story has been updated. 

There is a national student walk out planned for March 14 to protest school shootings and gun violence.

City Schools of Decatur Superintendent David Dude said he supports the rights of students to a “non-disruptive” protest.

But he said any disruption of school is a violation of conduct and could result in suspension. He said that there may be ways to avoid that punishment under the student code of conduct, however.

“We support a student’s right to non-disruptive protest and freedom of speech and will do what we can to support students interested in exercising those rights,” Dude wrote in a blog post. “It is not appropriate, however, for a school district to endorse any walk-out during the school day, and walk-outs are specifically prohibited in our Student Code of Conduct (SCC, https://goo.gl/dgfwDL), so our employees will not be participating in the walk-out as it is being advertised through social media.”

Dude later added, “Because this is at least a Level II offense, as stated in the SCC, the minimum consequence is three days of in-school suspension.”

He said that the principals do have some leeway in applying that punishment, however.

“The Level II language also states that, ‘consequences of a Level II disciplinary infraction may be reduced by the principal upon the successful completion of an appropriate program related to the nature of the offense.’ An example of an ‘appropriate program’ principals might consider is having a student write a persuasive letter to one of their elected representatives taking a position on an area of concern to the student,” Dude wrote. “It is not appropriate to pre-determine any consequences that may or may not be faced by students who choose to walk-out or encourage others to do so, so any such consequences will be determined by school administrators consistent with the [Student Code of Conduct]. To be clear, however, as stated earlier, we support a student’s right to non-disruptive protest and freedom of speech and will do what we can to support students interested in exercising those rights.”

The announcement follows similar announcements by Atlanta Public Schools and DeKab County Schools, both of which have largely embraced the protests, including the one scheduled for March 14 at 10 a.m. The planned walk out will last 17 minutes representing the 17 lives lost during a Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. One of the protest’s lead organizers, Clare Schexnyder, is a CSD parent.

“I’m disappointed it’s not as supportive as I would have expected from City of Decatur Schools, but I honestly think they’re going to work closely with the kids to try to observe the walkout and its spirit but keep it from being disruptive,” Schexnyder said. “I know the kids from DHS are meeting with administrators, and the same is true for RMS.”

She added, “I think CSD realizes the may be the first walkout of many and they need to have a solid plan in place. I respect that. It’s going to take sustained action to create the change we want to see. We’ve never had momentum like this before, and we’ve got to figure out how we, together, can make sure our kids’ voices are heard without being disruptive to the school day. But this is IMPORTANT, and I think the kids are leading the way on a life and death issue. We’d do well to make sure they’re heard.”

Here is Dude’s full post about the protests:

In response to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, many folks are planning a national school walk-out on March 14th at 10:00 am. In an area that was so key to our nation’s civil rights movement, I recognize and respect the power and influence of civil disobedience. I also struggle with the idea of disrupting the school day and, as I understand the plans, putting our students in a much less safe position than that within the school building. I further recognize the concerns I have heard from many parents regarding the possibility that their child could be required to participate in such a walk-out.

We support a student’s right to non-disruptive protest and freedom of speech and will do what we can to support students interested in exercising those rights. It is not appropriate, however, for a school district to endorse any walk-out during the school day, and walk-outs are specifically prohibited in our Student Code of Conduct (SCC, https://goo.gl/dgfwDL), so our employees will not be participating in the walk-out as it is being advertised through social media. Because walk-outs are specifically prohibited in our SCC, administrators are duty bound to address them. Rule 25 of our SCC specifically prohibits, “acts which cause a disruption of the school environment . . . which may include but not be limited to . . . walk-outs.” It goes on to say, “in addition, encouraging, counseling, advising or inciting other students to participate in any of the above . . . is also prohibited.” The act of walking out of a class is itself disruptive and therefore subject to Rule 25. Any students encouraging others to walk-out would also be subject to Rule 25. Because this is at least a Level II offense, as stated in the SCC, the minimum consequence is three days of in-school suspension. However, the Level II language also states that, “consequences of a Level II disciplinary infraction may be reduced by the principal upon the successful completion of an appropriate program related to the nature of the offense.” An example of an “appropriate program” principals might consider is having a student write a persuasive letter to one of their elected representatives taking a position on an area of concern to the student. It is not appropriate to pre-determine any consequences that may or may not be faced by students who choose to walk-out or encourage others to do so, so any such consequences will be determined by school administrators consistent with the SCC. To be clear, however, as stated earlier, we support a student’s right to non-disruptive protest and freedom of speech and will do what we can to support students interested in exercising those rights.

We have many adults who are well versed in the workings of our state and federal government, and I am confident they would be pleased to help concerned students learn about how to interact with their elected representatives (https://goo.gl/fVi6Pm). Providing information to students about how our state and national laws are made and enforced–as we already do in several courses–could be expanded to other students who are interested in this knowledge but are not currently in the courses where it is taught.

Individual schools may choose to provide optional, age-appropriate activities during the time organizers have designated for the 17-minute walk-out or at another time that works better with the school’s daily schedule. That decision will be made by building leaders in consultation with their building leadership team and school leadership team (SLT). If a school chooses to host such an activity, it will be optional for students who wish to participate, it will be age-appropriate, and it will be academically focused.

I am confident that all leaders in our school district stand ready to help those students who are interested in creating change in this or other areas relevant to them. To the students who are interested in this, who are struggling with the events in Florida, or who just need someone to talk to, I encourage you to reach out to a trusted adult in your school so that we can provide whatever support you need.

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest news from Decaturish!


About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of Decaturish.com. https://www.linkedin.com/in/danwhisenhunt

View all posts by Dan Whisenhunt

Receive the Daily Email DIgest

* = required field
error: Alert: Content is protected !!