Call your alma mater and ask it to follow the lead of the admissions department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which stated that any applicant who is disciplined for joining anti-gun protests will not jeopardize their chances of getting in to the elite school.
Why is this even a thing, you ask? It’s a thing because Curtis Rhodes, the superintendent of a school district near Houston, Texas threatened students with a three-day suspension if they joined a demonstration during school hours “for any type of protest or awareness!!” The district sent a letter to students on the matter, and published the policy on social media.
“Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved,” Rhodes stated in the message. “All will be suspended for 3 days and parent notes will not alleviate the discipline.”
Schools can punish students who walk out, but only for the act of disrupting class or taking an unexcused absence. They cannot punish their students for protesting.
Rhodes’s declaration prompted some American colleges and universities’ admissions departments to explicitly say that applicants who join protests and suffer discipline for doing so don’t have to worry–the marks on their record won’t hurt their chances of getting in to their schools.
Stu Schmill, dean of admissions and student financial services at MIT, said the following on February 22, 2018, in response to questions from people applying to join the class of 2022:
“Some students who have been admitted to MIT’s Class of 2022 have asked us if their acceptance will be rescinded if they are disciplined for joining the protests, while other applicants still under consideration are wondering if they have to choose between speaking out and getting in. We have already informed those who asked that, in this case, a disciplinary action associated with meaningful, peaceful participation in a protest will not negatively impact their admissions decision, because we would not view it as inappropriate or lacking integrity on its face.”
“If any admitted students or applicants are disciplined by their high school for practicing responsible citizenship by engaging in peaceful, meaningful protest related to this (or any other) issue, we will still require them to report it to us. However, because we do not view such conduct on its face as inappropriate or inconsistent with their prior conduct, or anything we wouldn’t applaud amongst our own students, it will not negatively impact their admissions outcome.”
We at OTYCD ask all alumni to call their alma mater and support protesting students.
Are you a high school graduate? Please find out who’s now the superintendent of the district where your old school is, and ask them to refrain from punishing students who participate in walk-outs. Contacting the local school board or committee about this matter is a good idea, too.
To track down your school district’s superintendent, you’ll have to do a smidge of work. Try plugging the name of the town or city where you went to high school into a search engine and follow it with the phrase “public schools.” This should pop up the district’s website. The current superintendent’s name will definitely be somewhere on the site, and it might even appear on the right side of the page of search results. The school district website should have contact information for the superintendent and at least some information about the local school board or committee.
If you went to private school, you’ll want to speak to the principal or headmaster as well as emailing or sending a letter to the board of trustees. earch on the name of your old school and rummage the “staff” page of its website to find the name and contact info for the people you need to speak with.
Sample script: “Dear [Relevant School Head Lastname], I am [Firstname Lastname,] a [year you graduated] alumnus of [high school], and I’m asking you to support your students who join in walk-outs and protests, particularly those planned in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Exercising your rights as a citizen is key to a healthy democracy. High schoolers who wish to change America’s gun laws and gun culture through protest should be allowed to do so without fear of harsh discipline. Please let them show their support without penalty.
Are you a college or university graduate? Please contact your alma mater (or almae matres) and ask their admissions department to formally and publicly embrace the stance taken by MIT.
All American colleges and universities have websites nowadays, and those websites devote sections to their admissions departments. Look up the name or names of those who lead the department and call or email them about this.
Sample script: “Dear [Head of Admissions Lastname], I am [Firstname Lastname,] a [year you graduated] alumnus of [alma mater]. I’m asking you to follow the lead of the admissions department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and issue a public statement to the class of 2022 and future classes for any young applicants who join protests and walk-outs. I would like you to say that your admissions department will disregard any suspensions or other disciplinary actions suffered as a result of joining a protest. Without civic engagement, democracy withers and dies. Standing up to demand change in our gun laws and our gun culture should be encouraged in the young. Please don’t punish applicants who exercise their First Amendment rights.”
If your alma mater has a well-respected journalism program, you may want to throw in a extra line about the importance of the First Amendment, and how that amendment protects a free press and protests.
If you support your old school(s) with money, time, or both, you might want to mention that as well.
Update: Since this post was drafted, some conscientious person has compiled a Google Doc of all the American colleges and universities that have declared that protestors who are disciplined by their high schools won’t have it held against them. See the ever-evolving doc here, and definitely check it before you call or email your alma mater:
Here also is a running list offered and updated by the National Association for College Admission Counseling:
And this Buzzfeed News piece reproduces several tweets from colleges and universities affirming that they will not penalize student protestors:
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Read about Superintendent Rhodes’s statement on student protestors:
Read about what schools can and can’t do to punish students who walk out and join protests when class is in session:
Read the MIT dean of admissions’ statement regarding applicants to the Class of 2022 and their disciplinary records:
Read coverage of the decisions by MIT and other schools to disregard any punishments that applicants receive for protesting :