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Editorial: Impressive young voices are heard

Editorial: Impressive young voices are heard

Successful walkout marches are the first step for students
Editorial: Impressive young voices are heard
Student walkout event at Schenectady High School on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

We are in our children’s good hands.

That was evident by the way students on Wednesday conducted themselves in walking out of class to remember the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

By large measure, their protests were well-organized, reflective and sincere. Rather than be disruptive, students were respectful of school administrators, with whom many worked to create a mutually agreeable plan of action.

Most importantly, they demonstrated a maturity, passion and intelligence that rightfully earned them the respect of school officials, peers and the public.

If you were one of those school officials that feared such a protest would get out of hand or be disruptive, you were proven wrong, happily we hope.

These brief demonstrations were no more disruptive to the educational mission than a fire drill or an assembly.

While the walkout was promoted nationally, the protests were expressly local. Our kids organized and participated in them. They decided what they would say and do. They made their own signs, expressed their own views, shared their own experiences. And they did us proud.

For those school leaders who trusted their students to handle this their way, we applaud you. Your trust was rewarded.

For those who discouraged the protests and decided to punish the students involved, we understand you have to make decisions that best suit your own individual districts.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for the state education commissioner to overturn any disciplinary action against student marchers was overreaching and ignores the concept of local control that school districts maintain in New York.

We hope in meting out punishment, administrators will give consideration to the reasons why students felt so compelled to walk out and to what they gained from the experience.

The educational value of learning to express their views about a topic that directly affects their lives, and exercising their constitutional right to protest peacefully, cannot be measured by any exam. The students who were punished learned that sometimes standing up for your rights comes with consequences.

What happens next will determine whether this was a one-shot event or the start of something more lasting and essential. Students roused by the emotion and pain of the Parkland shootings and energized by the backlash from the NRA and gun advocates must now move beyond walkouts, slogans, signs and fiery speeches.

They must further educate themselves about this complex and volatile issue. They must fully grasp the reasons and depth of the opposition. They must understand and adopt the practices that lead to change in America — voting, organization and artful persuasion. 

These protests demonstrated that our children are capable of conducting themselves in a mature, responsible, thoughtful manner within the system created by and run by adults.

What they do next will be at least as important as what they accomplished Wednesday. They have raised the bar on our expectations. We expect they won’t disappoint us.

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