Editorial: Student activism in high school following Parkland
Our collective schema for the term “activist” does not typically coincide with our conception of a high school student. High school students are more prone to associations with shenanigans and prom-related drama; however, with the rise of social media and the undeniable power of Twitter in mobilizing social justice movements, high school students are now at the forefront of advocating for stricter gun control laws following the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. High school students have gone so far as to organize the upcoming March for Our Lives, which is planned for March 24 and encourages students of all ages to walk out of class for 17 minutes in a show of support for stricter gun control laws. Other protests being planned by students include the April 20 National High School Walkout, which falls on the anniversary of the Columbine shootings, a 1999 high school shooting in Colorado, in which Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed twelve high school students and one high school teacher.
In response to the planned walkout, the administrations of some high schools are threatening to suspend students who participate. As a result of this effort to dissuade students from aligning themselves with a cause they are passionate about, universities such as Princeton University, the University of Connecticut and Boston University — among many others — are overlooking activism-related suspensions during the upcoming college admissions process. The Review urges the University of Delaware to follow suit in overlooking suspensions that arise as a result of a student’s participation in the March for Our Lives walkout.
Social activism and protests of this caliber have historically been spearheaded by college students. Social justice movements are often tailored to be experienced on college campuses, not within high schools by teenagers. The decision on behalf of the students of Parkland and, subsequently, those who are choosing to participate in the nationwide walkout, are sending a powerful message to lawmakers and those who have already written off the younger generation as “lazy.” The pressure for teenagers to enter the political ring in an effort to maintain the safety of themselves and their fellow students is something even millennials had not had to experience. This duality, of being a teenager and activist, ushered in by the age of social media and trending topics, is a new battleground that these students are already being forced to navigate. By choosing to take part in the democratic process, these students are deciding what is politically important to them and, ultimately, fighting for their right to do so.
By discouraging lawful and constructive protest, these high school administrations are deliberately discouraging young people from participating in democracy. Universities then are leading the charge on encouraging students and young people to continue fighting and constructively working towards change.
As student journalists, the question of whether one should publicly align with a social justice movement is one that remains in contention. Because of any given journalist’s affiliation with a publication or larger organization, objectivity is encouraged and, sometimes, necessary. Members of The Review empathize with the conflict that these high school students may be facing with regard to the way in which they are choosing to publicly represent themselves. We encourage students to align themselves with causes they are passionate about and channel their desire for change through civil protests and dialogues. If there is an issue that resonates strongly enough with you, that you are compelled to walk out of class to stand in solidarity with others across the country who feel the same way, you should be able to take a side and endorse your platform Standing up against forces discouraging lawful civil protest is the only way to make a difference and the policies of the University of Delaware Undergraduate Admissions should reflect that.
Editorials are developed by The Review staff.