Like so many of you, the past two weeks have been emotional with intense feelings ranging from grief to anger to disgust - disgust at another senseless tragedy. I've spent many hours on the phone and in face-to-face conversations with students and parents listening. It is simply unfathomable how far we have descended as a society that we live and relive one shooting after another.
But I have HOPE - and so should you. If you missed my note on February 14, please find a link:
WHY? First and foremost, regardless of your political views and personal views on public policy related to issues including gun reform, mental health and all the issues we wrestle with in our wonderful country, I'm sure you join me in awe and respect as we witness the courage and leadership shown by the young adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and across the nation.
SHOULD YOU WALK OUT OF SCHOOL?
The conversations I've been having the past days have shifted from grief to action. I received quite a few emails and phone calls this past weekend asking one seemingly simple question: "Should my student participate in impromptu or planned school walk-outs?!!"
As a former college professor, my colleagues and I call this a "teaching moment"! There are multiple layers to this question.
Let's recognize that this would not even be a question if our students weren't learning of potential disciplinary action. We can understand, but perhaps may not agree with administrators' positions. Teachers want to 'get on with teaching' and the perceived "chaos" of students walking off and back on school grounds seems daunting. I'm not going to spill gasoline on a raw nerve-I'm instead going to answer the question that is on your mind and then invite you to participate in a thought-provoking conversation with your children at home or with other families within your community. I am more than happy to join your family to discuss this very important and multi-layered conversation.
The EASY ANSWER: Let's dispense with the easy and foremost thoughts on your mind- and I appreciate that some parents and students were brutally honest. The question:
is being disciplined for participation in a school walk-out going to adversely impact your child's college admissions portfolio?
If you didn't already know, the Common Application (and even parts of FAFSA) require students to list any disciplinary action.
As a former college admissions officer and in my role as a current South Florida Cornell Alumni interviewer,
I can tell you without an ounce of hesitation, that participating in any of the events noted below will ABSOLUTELY not decrease your chances of admissions. If anything, this is a moment to shine and perhaps be on the right side of history.
Multiple universities have been vocally supportive of the reaction of high school students. Receiving a school suspension for participating in a walk-out will not have an adverse impact on admissions.
You can read multiple responses on social media from admissions officers at Brown, Yale, Tulane, MIT, Dartmouth, etc....
Moreover, you may not already be familiar with one important section of the Common Application where students detail accomplishments both formal and informal in their extracurricular pursuits. Within the drop-down categories under the "activities" section I call attention to several areas where students can include their participation in school walk-outs and other social activism including: Community Service, Family Responsibilities, School Spirit, Social Justice, Politics, Other
Yet, it equally important that I reiterate any and all school disciplinary action is in fact reported on your Common Application and may even be noted on your high school transcript. These are peaceful marches. If your actions become unruly and lead to arrest, we are no longer on the same page.
For those of you fascinated by historical precedent for students expressing political views at high school, this matter was in fact heard by the Supreme Court in 1968: Tinker vs. Des Moines School District
Perhaps some parents (maybe grandparents) reading this note are old enough to remember the dissonance of the 1960s and 70s in our Civil Rights and Anti-War movements. Universities have always been supportive of students' civil disobedience and right to peaceful demonstration. High school and college campuses are places to express views and peaceful demonstrations do not adversely impact your chances of college admissions.
The More COMPLEX ISSUES:
Now- let's look at the layers of complexity in "should I walk out of school"?
Can Schools Discipline Students? They can -but should they? We are not in the position to dictate how schools react but can decide how your student will respond.
Absolutely-you can and may be disciplined and you are responsible for attending class and turning in your assignments. Truancy is an offense that can lead to disciplinary action. Students are required to attend school. Parents and students should have the conversation and determine what is best for you.
For a perspective on whether schools might be violating your free-speech:
Civil Disobedience: This isn't news - and perhaps your family will find a more enriching and thought-provoking conversation by reviewing the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King and Henry David Thoreau on this subject
I recommend: Thoreau's essay on Civil Disobedience
doctrine of Satyagraha
What actions can you take to make your voice heard and facilitate change:
Engage within Your community - informally or formal. As I wrote nearly two weeks ago:
"Look around-smile at someone new EVERY DAY. Invite someone to sit at your lunch table."
"Are you in earshot of a disgraceful insult that marginalizes someone because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or just some unfashionable shirt- -? Speak up - don't allow someone to make another feel small - so small, that eventually their self-worth has been stripped away.
Engage within your community - join or start a SAMARITANS365 chapter at your high school:
Form a chapter at your school to address issues not limited to: Emotional Well-being, Anti-bullying, Gun-Reform, Diversity & Inclusiveness
I learned this weekend that some of my students have taken action at their high schools organizing conversations, energizing for planned rallies and requesting conversations with school officials about their safety. BRAVO!
Participate Peacefully at a School Walk-Out at your school March 14
Attend March for Our Lives in Washington DC March 24
Vote VOTE VOTE !!!
Register to Vote-- You don't have to be 18 to Register-In many states, you can register at 16 years of age. At 18, you will be ready to have your voice heard at local and national elections. Remain informed on where candidates stand on positions that matter most to you.
I want to stress that all our children need to respect the law and that starts at home. Parents lead by example, parents set the rules, and parents are to be respected. This is a very personal family decision. If I can provide an ear or contribute to that conversation, please reach out to me: 561.509.0021
On a closing note, for those of you who find your inspiration from fiction, the second to last line of the Blockbuster film
Black Panther - is perhaps a very timely social commentary about humanity:
"In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe."
Have a safe and peaceful week,
Take pause, look around- who needs your help or simply a smile to brighten their day!
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Educational and College Admissions Consultant