The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Universities back high school students protesting gun violence

Universities across the nation, including the UI, say students’ admission status won’t be affected because of suspension for protesting gun violence as high schools threaten to suspend students who participate in such protests.
Lily Smith
From left: Iowa City High School junior Olivia Lusala and senior Eden Knoop lead a protest on the Pentacrest on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. The protest was sparked after news of another school shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, FL on, Feb. 14. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

High-school students around the nation are rallying to demand action regarding gun control after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead — but some high schools are threatening to punish students for their involvement in demonstrations and protests.

Some universities, including the University of Iowa, have joined the conversation, backing high-school students’ right to protest peacefully, saying disciplinary actions against the students for nonviolent activism will not affect their admission status.

“The University of Iowa respects and values the right to peacefully protest,” Assistant Vice President for External Relations Jeneane Beck said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Admission to UI will not be negatively affected for prospective students participating in nonviolent activism.”

High-school students in Iowa City coordinated a school walkout in opposition to current gun laws last week, and approximately 250 students participated in the march to the Old Capitol.

RELATED: Iowa City students and community respond to Parkland mass shooting

The Needville Independent School District in Texas warned its students they would be suspended if they caused any disruptions in protesting gun violence.

Needville Superintendent Curtis Rhodes said in a statement that was sent to families and posted on the district’s Facebook page that students would be suspended for three days if they took part in any protests or demonstrations. The DI tried to reach Rhodes for a comment but did not receive a response.

“Please be advised that the Needville … will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness!!” Rhodes said in his statement. “Should students choose to do so, they will be suspended from school for 3 days and face all the consequences that come along with an out of school suspension.

“Life is all about choices, and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, 50, or 500 students involved,” he said.

The post has since been deleted from Facebook.

While some other schools have taken similar stances to Rhodes’, plenty of universities have come out against them.

Some of the universities included Yale, Vanderbilt, Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, Wisconsin-Madison, and Iowa State.

ISU voiced its support for students’ right to protest on social media.

“A message to Future Cyclones: Iowa State University values the honest and respectful expression of ideas by both its current and prospective students. Disciplinary action associated with peaceful participation in nonviolent protest will not affect your admission status,” ISU’s statement said.

ISU Director of Admissions Katharine Suski said using the right of free speech is one of the core principles of the university community.

“We support students’ [right to peacefully protest] and their honest and respectful expression of ideas,” Suski said. “We know and expect our students to do that when they are here on campus, and they learn those skills when they are in high school.”

RELATED: Thoughts and prayers once again after Parkland shooting. Now what?

Suski said when reviewing a student for admission to ISU, if a student has a disciplinary violation that results in suspension from school, officials review it to determine if there is a threat to the safety of campus.

“When we look at this as a big issue, if students are involved in nonviolent protests or lawfully using their right to free speech regardless of the issue, we as a university support [it] as long as it’s done in a nonviolent, respectful way,” Suski said.

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