Champaign Students Will Face Consequences If They Participate In Walkout
Organizers of a walkout planned for Friday said students at Champaign high schools are being forced to choose between participating in the civic demonstration around gun violence and attending prom. The walkout and subsequent events planned at the Independent Media Center in Urbana are part of a nationwide day of action around gun violence on April 20 — the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.
The students organizing the event hail from the University of Illinois Laboratory High School, Urbana High School and Champaign’s Central and Centennial High Schools. A message from principals at the Champaign high schools sent to families and students states that those who walk out of the classroom will be marked truant. Students marked truant will be placed on “social probation,” which will prohibit them from purchasing tickets to prom, according to the note.
Director of communications and community relations for Champaign Unit 4 schools, Emily Schmit, wrote in an email that the message from school officials is “consistent with our Student Code of Conduct and our process for handling walk outs.”
Zanden Duncan, 18, a senior at Central High School and one of the organizers of the demonstration, said the message from school officials will prevent many students from participating in the walkout -- particularly those who do not have parents willing to call them out of school for the day.
“Not being able to go to prom is enough to hold kids back,” he said.
Duncan said students who participate will head to the IMC to learn about voter registration, how to contact their lawmakers and how gun violence affects different groups of people in the community. He said the goal of the event and the two gun violence demonstrations that have preceded it has been to engage students in civic action and hopefully increase voter turnout among young adults in the next election.
Duncan said he wishes Champaign school administrators would be more open to accommodating student demonstrations.
“We’re walking out of our education to get an education in the things schools don’t really talk about,” he said.
As a work-around, Duncan said student-led teach-ins will take place inside Champaign schools to accommodate students who want to learn more about the issues but still want to attend their prom.
Duncan said students plan to participate in another demonstration to bring awareness to gun violence in June.