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Ahead of Nationwide Walkout Demanding Action on Guns, ACLU Offers Primer on Students' Rights

"Rather than seeking to silence students' political engagement and quashing their desire for conversation, schools can approach this moment as an opportunity for learning about civic action."

students from South High School

Around 200 students from South High School went to Minneapolis City Hall on Feb. 21, 2018 to protest recent gun violence and call for gun law reform. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr/cc)

Ahead of Wednesday's 17-minute walkout by high school students nationwide, to call for stricter gun control laws and remember those killed in the massacre in Parkland, Florida last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is providing legal resources to the students and urging administrators against punishing participants.

"The impulse to discipline and control young people may come from the desire to avoid a contentious conversation in the short term, but resorting to punishment doesn't solve the problem, and it doesn't keep kids safe," staff attorney Sarah Hinger wrote for the ACLU's blog on Monday.

"Public school is the place where students experience and interact with government, learn through discussion and debate with other students from differing backgrounds, and build the foundation for participation in a democratic society," Hinger noted.

"Rather than seeking to silence students' political engagement and quashing their desire for conversation," she concluded, "schools can approach this moment as an opportunity for learning about civic action."

The students, who plan to walk out of classrooms across the country at 10 am local time despite disciplinary threats from administrators, are pushing for real solutions to gun violence in the form of state and federal legislation. Organizers are encouraging parents, teachers, and school staff to participate.

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The ACLU hosted a question-and-answer session on Tumblr Tuesday to provide input on students' protest rights:

Earlier this month, in response to threats from high school administrations, the group also livestreamed a video tutorial on student rights:

Wednesday's walkout is just part of a national student-led movement for gun safety. Students and their supporters have also planned the "March for Our Lives" in Washington, D.C. on March 24 as well as a second nationwide walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.

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