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Amid Threats of Discipline, Hundreds of Colleges Assure Prospective Students Anti-Gun Protests Cool With Them

"Say your piece, speak your mind, and demand better of us all."

Some of the hundreds of West Boca High School students arrive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 20, 2018 after they walked there in honor of the 17 people killed  in Parkland, Florida. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Since some high school officials started threatening to punish students who engage in protests for gun control after a mass shooter killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida last month, scores of colleges and university have issued statements reassuring applicants that they will not be rejected or have acceptances rescinded for disciplinary action that results from peaceful activism.

"We also believe that civic responsibility is, like most things at MIT, something you learn best by doing: indeed, to be civically responsible is to put into practice the obligation we owe to each other and to the common good."
—Stu Schmill, MIT

The National Association for College Admission Counseling has compiled a searchable database of official statements from more than 250 schools and universities. Many institutions have stated that it is part of their mission to encourage civic engagement among students.

"The mission of Harvard College is to provide a deeply transformative liberal arts and sciences education that will prepare our students for a life of citizenship and leadership," the college said. "Fundamental to our mission is our belief that students have the right to protest peacefully about issues of concern to them."

"Participation in peaceful, meaningful protest and/or civil action in no way jeopardizes your admission or scholarship to UCLA," wrote the school's director of admissions, Gary Clark, Jr. "The motto for the University of California is Fiat Lux, or Let There Be Light. We're known for our sense of optimism, even in the direst of circumstances."

"The students and community of Stoneman Douglas represent that light for us all," Clark added. "Say your piece, speak your mind, and demand better of us all."

Some admissions offices chimed in on Twitter, offering support for the high school students who have participated in recent actions to call for gun control legislation, or plan to attend any of the upcoming protests.

Stu Schmill, the dean of admissions and student financial services at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—one of the first schools to issue a statement in support of protesting applicants—wrote in a blog post on MIT's website:

We believe students should follow compasses over maps, pursuing points of direction rather than specific destinations and trusting they will end up where they belong. As such, we always encourage students to undertake whatever course of action in life is most meaningful to, and consistent with, their own principles, and not prioritize how it might impact their college applications....

We believe an MIT education is about learning more than mere facts and figures, but about developing the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.... We also believe that civic responsibility is, like most things at MIT, something you learn best by doing: indeed, to be civically responsible is to put into practice the obligation we owe to each other and to the common good.

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of the Feb. 14 massacre, and others across the country have led a wave of protests to demand for stricter gun laws on state and national levels.

They have planned at least two major events for later this month. On March 14, students will hold a 17-minute national walkout, a minute for each person who died in the Florida attack. On March 24, students and their supporters will descend on Washington, D.C. for the "March for Our Lives."

High schools from Maine to Texas have threatened disciplinary consequences for students and even staff members who choose to participate. In response to the threats, the ACLU published a blog post on students' rights last week and will livestream a free "Know Your Rights" information session for students on Thursday at 8pm ET.

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