Walkout fallout: School districts hit with backlash over political activism

The gun control movement notched a public relations coup with last week’s massive school walkouts, but now school districts that pitched in to ensure the protest’s success are stuck with the rising political and legal fallout. A week after the March 14 walkout, school officials are grappling with complaints from parents outraged by the specter of their kids engaged in political protesting on school time, as well as reports of criminal mischief committed by teens who treated the event as a get-out-of-class-free card. What’s more, the students get to do it all again next month. A substantially identical event, also called the National School Walkout, is scheduled for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. Chris Cleveland, chairman of the Chicago Republican Party, said he worried that the walkouts, aimed at pushing for tougher gun restrictions in the wake of the deadly Parkland shooting, have provided the template for advocacy groups eager to co-opt the public schools for progressive activism. “If they get away with this, they’ll be free to engage in any kind of political activity in the schools that they wish,” said Mr. Cleveland, who has a third-grader in the Chicago Public Schools. The party is moving to avert that scenario by preparing a lawsuit against the school system, arguing that the district violated state and federal law as well as its own policies by organizing a political demonstration — and pressuring students to attend — on the taxpayers’ dime. The district has yet to comment, but it has other problems. About 60 students from Simeon Career Academy trashed a Walmart “while they were supposed to be protesting guns,” an incident under investigation by police, according to Fox32 in Chicago. The school system issued a statement saying it was reviewing the incident, but Mr. Cleveland said he has yet to receive a response to a letter from the party’s attorney demanding “that they comply with the law.” “There will always be a few kids who don’t behave,” said Mr. Cleveland. “I’m a lot more concerned about the behavior of the adults.” He is not alone. Connecticut lawyer Deborah G. Stevenson said she has fielded calls from parents and others across the nation, including California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, after reports about her clash with the New Milford Public Schools. She urged the district last week on behalf of several parents to cancel the high school walkout, arguing that the schools had “condoned, facilitated, and supported an event that clearly advocates for students to be part of a partisan political ‘movement,’” but the district refused. Ms. Stevenson said her clients plan to pursue further action before the April 20 walkout. “Parents are very, very upset about this entire situation,” said Ms. Stevenson. “The ones that have contacted us are trying to determine what the proper legal steps would be here. Everybody’s trying to make that determination of how and when and where to take the next step.”

We don’t blame these parents one bit!  For more, click on the text above.

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