You Decide: Were Cambridge High students unfairly silenced during school walkout?

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The Issue: While reading a speech about gun control during National School Walkout Day, students at Cambridge High School in Milton were told to stop by school officials and ushered away from the area where they were speaking. In an earlier attempt to give the speech, the students microphones were cut off.

What the students say: The students gave a speech at the rally and then told the crowd that it wasn’t the speech they wanted to give. The students then attempt to talk about gun control. At that point, it appears the microphones went dead. The students attempted again to give the speech and a school employee approached them, took the papers out of their hands, and led them away from the crowd. The students say the school is silencing their views on gun control.

Video: Here are two tweets containing the video from the incident.

The Speech: Here is a photo of the speech the students were attempting to give.

What Does The School System Say?: When asked to comment, the school system gave us two responses. The first was a response from Fulton County Schools and the second was a letter sent to students and parents by Cambridge Principal Ed Spurka. Here is the school system’s response:

“The student assembly at Cambridge High School had ended when two students stood on picnic tables in another area and continued speaking. They were told to stop because the time the school allotted for the assembly was over.”

And here is the letter sent by the principal:

Good afternoon Parents,

I want to take the opportunity to address some misconceptions and misinformation about this morning student-led demonstration. This morning’s event was well planned and executed by 30 members of our student council and student body. The school’s administration and the school district approved our students’ plan, and I was very proud of the students memorializing the lives lost in Parkland, Florida and the message our students worked on the past two weeks. After the conclusion of our student speeches, two students decided to go off-script and begin advocating for gun control.

In our efforts to stay on message with student unity and school safety, the students were redirected and asked to step down from the table. At Cambridge, our plan was in line with our district’s guidelines which stated the event should memorialize the victims of Parkland and not take political positions on political issues. At Cambridge, we have 2,000 students with many different political opinions. We will continue to work with our students to provide a safe school environment. We respect the political rights of our students and parents. However, the school cannot appear to take one political opinion over another. This event provided a great learning experience for our students we will continue to keep our focus on the safety of our school, students, and staff.

Dr. Ed Spurka
Cambridge High School

What was the National School Walkout protest about?: The school system’s response begs the question that many adults and students have been asking about the nation-wide protest. Was the protest about honoring the lives lost in the Parkland shooting, or was it a call for gun control? The March was created and organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER. According the event’s official website, the purpose was to lobby congress to take action on gun control. This is what the official website for the event says about it:

“Women’s March Youth EMPOWER is calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout for 17 minutes at 10am across every time zone on March 14, 2018 to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods. We need action. Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.”

The Big Question: Regardless of what the school or even some students and parents may have thought about the walkout, it was not a non-political event, which brings us back to the original question: Were Cambridge students unfairly silenced for giving their political view points at what was essentially a political protest? The students involved say it was a political protest. The school system is treating like it was a programmed school assembly. What do you say? Take the survey and comment below.