Our Opinion: Titans see threats for exercising protesting rights — Walkouts are a student choice


The recent shooting in Parkland, Fla. has ignited a flame in the hearts of the survivors. A national walkout facilitated by the Women’s March has called for students, teachers and allies to walk out for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. tomorrow to protest gun violence in schools and to bring awareness to school safety.

However, at Stevenson High School, Titans were informed that if students partake in tomorrow’s events, they could face Saturday school, an unexcused absence, a missed prom or even a potential suspension.

“Rumor has it that future activities such as prom may be cancelled. I am not correcting that rumor,” SHS Principal Steven Pfannes said in an email to teachers on March 12.

Pfannes’ decision to not participate in tomorrow’s walkout came after Utica Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Christine Johns sent an email to parents on March 9 talking about the national movement.

In her letter, Johns said: “We respect the voice of our students and want to make sure they are allowed to exercise a hallmark of our democracy — their First Amendment Right of free speech — in a meaningful way.”

The decision as to whether or not the individual schools would participate was then left to each principal to decide.

Instead of tomorrow’s planned protest, Mr. Pfannes is encouraging students to participate in an organized walkout on April 20 — the date chosen since administration would have more time to arrange it, students could give more input and that it would be “warmer out.”

We do not care about being cold or it being unorganized — we just want to be able to exercise our First Amendment rights without punishment.

The walkouts are meant to show the solidarity of students across the nation. There is not a need for specific organization or activity because it is already done by the event. Here at the Vanguard, the staff believes that it should be the student’s choice — even if a there is a bigger event scheduled on another date.

In the past, Mr. Pfannes has supported the student voice of the Vanguard with little to no problem, but attempting to scare students into not participating is unlike what is typically known.

Administering threats to students who decide to partake in an event of this manner is the opposite of the intended effect. The administration at SHS should not strive to be part of the problem that students and faculty are protesting.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, ‘FAQ: know your rights in school’ (Sept. 23, 2014): “Students have the constitutional right to express themselves outside the classroom ‘unless it causes a material and substantial disruption’ to class or other school activities. That means that you can’t be silenced just because your message might be offensive, unpopular, controversial, or draws attention.”

Students who leave the classroom quietly and exit promptly are not causing half as much distraction as the administrator’s threats make them out to be.

We live in a world where protesting has become the new norm. Around the country, people rally for everything — from gun safety and political issues, to women and LGBT rights and more.

Right now, the SHS administration is prohibiting us from doing that without consequence. What is that teaching? That you should not stand up for what you believe in.

Do not allow misguided authority to take away a Titan’s passion for an issue you believe in.

Activism is about doing it anyway.

Participating in the National School Walkout, sophomores Kelly Felice (left)


and Courtnee Delph bow their heads solemnly during the National School Walkout 

March 14 in remembrance of the 17 students and the teacher who lost their lives 

in Parkland, Fl. on Valentine’s Day. Principal Steven Pfannes joined Felice and 

Delph during the 10- 10:17 a.m. protest in remembrance and conversation. 

Photo by Ashley Farris