I’m a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and, consequently, a survivor of the tragedy that took place on February 14, 2018. Now, in the aftermath of the shooting at MSD, many students have decided to take up their First Amendment freedoms of speech and assembly. Students speaking up for themselves is a great thing, as it teaches students how to speak truth to power in a world that has a growing commonality of corruption and inaction in government. One of the ways that the students are speaking up is in the walkouts, which are technically a form of civil disobedience – breaking the “rules” in order to bring attention to an issue.
While this is an amazing way to stand up for what students believe need to change, I have begun to see many students complaining that they are receiving disciplinary recourse from teachers and administrators because they walked out. While, yes, it is unfortunate that school faculty have begun to take action against the students, they aren’t in the wrong.
The whole idea behind civil disobedience is that you are breaking the predetermined rules and you are willing to suffer the consequences. As blacks fought for desegregation, they participated in sit-ins, where they were willing to go to jail to show how wrong the injustices they were facing were. Therefore, by students complaining about their punishment, they are ruining their act of civil disobedience because they care more about their punishment then the change they are pushing for.
Students who have walked out ought to be proud of that detention or referral. Frame it and hang it on your wall over your bed. Videotape you serving your sentence proudly. In order for the act of civil disobedience to truly be effective, you must be willing to accept any punishment from your school. As Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently puts it, “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is, in reality, expressing the highest respect for the law.” Be proud of what you are doing and the punishment that ensues - it shows you truly care about your movement.