In K-12 education, not all student protests are treated equally, but they are treated “equitably.”
Over the last year-and-a-half, K-12 schools have seen an increase in student demonstrations during the school day. While most of these disruptions have been for left-wing causes, recent protests highlight a growing opposition movement among students and a disturbing trend of selective backlash from school personnel.
District administrators and staff are setting a dangerous precedent by publicly supporting and assisting students who protest for the “right” reasons while deterring, penalizing or hurling accusations of harassments at students who attempt to push back against the prevailing ideology.
These discriminatory actions are more than just unfair — they’re a clear violation of the ideals and principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and subsequently spelled out in the First Amendment. They expose the dominant belief in education that all men are not created equal, and that therefore different groups require different treatment.
Such discrimination is a feature, not a bug, of the equity movement. Equity, as it is defined and implemented in K-12, is the intentional favoring of “historically marginalized groups” over others. Protests for causes that challenge equity-based policies are then labeled as violations of same policies and interpreted as acts of aggression against the groups those policies are meant to benefit.
For example, students earlier this year at Waterloo Unit School District in Illinois staged an impromptu protest against the district’s adoption of a transgender bathroom policy. The students opted to use the bathroom in the nurse’s office, which resulted in a long line down the hallway that left many students running late for class. The kids were publicly accused of harassment by the superintendent.
At Penn-Delco high school in Pennsylvania, students attempted a protest against their district’s transgender bathroom policy. An announcement from the superintendent prior to the event warned of possible punishment for participation. The protest appeared short-lived as school administrators and staff shuffled students off to class, blocked building exits, and even gave students zeros for their involvement.
Something different occurred when students from across the country were encouraged to participate in a nationwide protest of Florida’s dishonestly labeled “Don’t Say Gay” law. For example, emails from a middle school in Topeka, Kansas, last fall revealed that members of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance club received open support and participation from school staff.
When students in Fairfax County Public Schools engaged in a statewide walkout over Governor Glenn Youngkin’s transgender policy, the protest was organized by an outside nonprofit and had open support from administration and teachers. (The district has seen no fewer than seven separate student walkouts since 2018.)
And, of course, there was last month’s protest at Lowell High School in San Francisco featuring students marching through the building hallways chanting the genocidal slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The protests were coordinated by the school’s Arab Youth Organizing club and promoted nationally by its parent organization, Arab Resource Organizing Center (AROC). Video of the event showed no school personnel even attempting to stop or discourage the marchers.
These policies and actions reveal that America’s schools actively engage in discrimination based on a student’s identity group and ideology. It is a clear subversion of the founding principles of the nation and reeks of unconstitutionality. It sends a very clear, harmful message to children — that they are not all created equal and do not share the same inalienable rights.
If the K-12 education system is sincere in allowing students to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, then the standards must be the same regardless of whether administrators and teachers agree with the purpose or not. Either all students have the opportunity to express their opinions and concerns in a peaceful manner, or no one does.
Rhyen Staley is a Researcher for Parents Defending Education.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.