With a student walkout called for March 14 and national protests on March 24 and April 20 (along with many local actions), educators are grappling with how to respond — both personally and professionally.
We've searched out guidance and credible resources to help answer eight common questions that educators have right now.
1: I’m a high school teacher. My students want to participate in a walkout next week to demand legislation that keeps schools safe from gun violence. I want to support them, but my principal/district does not seem open to it. What can I do?
One thing every educator can do: Support students’ civil rights, and align that support with your school's mission.
“School leaders can articulate that while they support students’ civil rights — including their right to engage in peaceful protest — students’ beliefs are their own. Schools can defend students’ rights to express themselves, without taking a stand on the content of that expression," says Meira Levinson, in a piece about how schools can respond to protest.
"A school or district’s mission statement can also be a helpful guide as leaders consider how to respond to protest incidents. What are your core values — the set of guiding principles that you’re always talking about? These should be familiar to people and can provide an essential touchstone as you try to navigate among stakeholders with deeply divided opinions.”
Another key response: Create opportunities for students to express the strong emotions they are feeling. Carve out time and space for civil discourse and reflection, says Laura Tavares, writing in Greater Good Magazine. That should involve the creation of classroom norms to guide conversation and provide guardrails for discussing contentious topics. And when the conversation starts, let students lead.
For students who want to get active: Suggest that they explore Youth in Front, a new hub for advice and information for youth activists. The site has videos of experienced youth activists and adult allies answering common questions (for instance, Will I get in trouble?).
- See Facing History’s guide to fostering civil discourse in the classroom.
- More on how to support students even if you can’t support a walkout.
- Videos and other resources for and from educators, from Youth in Front.