When the clock strikes 10 a.m. Wednesday, students around the world, throughout the nation and across California will rise from their desks in the cause of political activism to join the National School Walkout to protest gun violence.
Here in the Sacramento region, however, some will undoubtedly remained seated, fearing their civic engagement will get them slapped with a detention or, worse, a suspension, as school authorities have sought to hijack the grassroots response to the Parkland, Fla., shooting. For that, teachers and administrators should be ashamed of themselves.
Now is not the time to discourage young people from participating in democracy, not when California, under siege from the Trump administration, needs active and informed voters.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom had it right last week when he asked California public schools to stop trying to control how students respond to the constant threat of gun violence in their classrooms.
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“The adults in charge of Congress have failed our children for long enough,” he wrote in a letter to California's 58 county superintendents. “Let's not fail them again by suppressing their voices at this critical juncture in history.”
The National School Walkout will take place exactly a month after a teenager with an AR-15 rifle marched into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and started shooting. Seventeen people died, and many others were injured.
It was yet another mass shooting in a country that has seen far too many. But this time, instead of letting politicians settle into the same old pattern of actively doing nothing and genuflecting to the National Rifle Association, fresh-faced young people have been relentlessly demanding more gun control. And it's working.
Students from Parkland have been particularly pushy and media savvy, backing the NRA into a corner on live TV and forcing politically vulnerable Florida lawmakers to pass legislation to restrict gun purchases to people 21 and older and to ban bump stocks.
The students have had less luck in Washington, D.C., where the Trump administration has continued to flip-flop on federal proposals to arm teachers and beef up criminal background checks nationally for gun buyers. But the movement has, in itself, emboldened kids around the country to demand change in their own communities.
Why throw cold water on that? We should be celebrating this wave of youthful idealism and engagement. Instead, teachers and school administrators in Sacramento County have worked to keep students indoors on Wednesday, promoting alternate events such as letter-writing campaigns, poetry readings, speeches delivered at lunch time and calls to wear a certain color.
These are fine ideas, but they're the ideas of adults, not students.
“Events such as walkouts are especially challenging for schools,” Elk Grove Unified Superintendent Christopher Hoffman explained in a letter obtained by The Bee's Diana Lambert. “We have to balance student safety and required school attendance with the rights of students to express themselves.”
We get it. Dealing with teenagers can be a challenge, and schools have a responsibility to keep kids in class and maintain order. But a walkout doesn't have to be disruptive if its planned with a route and a schedule. And some issues take priority.
Gun violence has become an existential threat to children, not to mention an ongoing disruption, whether it’s the psychological baggage of active shooter drills or the trauma of an actual mass shooting.
Kids have a lot at stake in the national debate over guns. They should be allowed to do the hard work of democracy and advocate for their lives in their own voices.
Don't worry. The kids are alright.