All over the country, students are making their voices heard by walking out of class in support of increased gun control measures. Whether they agree or disagree with the merit of such measures, educators are left with a decision on how to handle these protests.
This is a particularly thorny issue for student-athletes. Participating in athletics is often tied to behavior in school, and students with unexcused absences may not be eligible to practice or play. This is far from the first time this issue has come up, as just last fall, schools dealt with protests during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Some schools went so far as to suggest loss of playing time or outright removal from the team for taking part in any anthem protests.
And what of college recruiting? Many colleges have come out to explicitly say that a student’s participation in protests would not affect his or her admission status, however it’s ultimately up to a coach. He or she could simply opt not to recruit that player.
What’s your take?
Take 1: Students Have the Same Right to Protest as Anyone Else
The constitution doesn’t specifically give circumstances for when a person does and does not have free speech. Thus, a student doesn’t discard that right when he or she enters a school. The same goes for participation on a team or activity. Punishments such as removal from a team should be reserved for students who have done something to harm the team or school, not ones who simply want to have their voices heard.
Take 2: Students Should Protest on Their Own Time
Yes, free speech is important, but that doesn’t give students a right to disrupt the school environment. Protesters may not be in legal trouble, but a school has a duty to all of its students to ensure a safe learning environment for everyone. And if that extends to a student’s participation on a team, so be it. If students walk out during the school day or take a knee on the field, they should be prepared to accept the consequences.
Have Your Say
What do you think? Do students have the right to protest or should a school curtail those activities as they see fit? Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier