Editor, the VOICE:
I am writing to express my disapproval of the way Tahoma High School handled the National School Walkout on March 14th. In preparation for the protest, Tahoma High School made the decision that a student would only be able to participate if the school received permission from the student’s guardian beforehand. If such consent was not received, and the student chose to participate anyway, the student would then be reprimanded. And while I acknowledge that Tahoma’s response to the walkout was better than that of some schools across the country, their response to the walkout still troubles me. The goal of the American education system is to create informed, mindful citizens who upon graduation go on to become contributing members of society. That is why all Washington State students are required by House Bill 2132 to receive an education in civics: to ensure every student is outfitted with the knowledge to meaningfully participate in this country’s democracy. As HB 2132 states: “Preparation for citizenship is as important as preparation for college and a career, and should take its place as a requirement for receiving a high school diploma.”
And yet in handling the National School Walkout in the way they did, Tahoma directly inhibited the creation of such citizens. By implementing the system the way they did, they made it more difficult for students to participate in their democracy, something we should encourage all students to do.
Now I know that it is normal protocol to enforce disciplinary action when a student misses class. And I agree that such action is necessary to prevent students from missing class time for frivolous things. But what the students did during the National School Walkout was not frivolous. They walked out to participate in their democracy and to make a change in their society.
These are the very same kids who on the 20th were thrown into chaos when the fire alarm went off during lunch. Thinking the alarm could be the tactic of a shooter (as was done in Parkland, Florida), students frantically ducked under tables, were ushered into classrooms by some teachers, or sprinted out of the building, convinced they were literally running for their lives. This is the reality kids are facing everyday in our schools, including at Tahoma, and the students who took part in the National School Walkout were only participating in their democracy to advocate for a world in which such a situation isn’t a normal occurrence. I had hoped that Tahoma could have seen it as such and handled the situation differently, but they did not.
I hope that next time such a situation arises Tahoma reconsiders their response.