Students plan to march to RI State House in protest of gun violence despite consequences
When hundreds of students leave school next Wednesday to march on the Rhode Island State House to call for gun safety, they will not get a free pass from the Providence superintendent.
“We need to help children understand that there are consequences to actions and there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of expressing it,” Providence Schools Superintendent Chris Maher told NBC 10 News.
Maher has experienced this situation before, as hundreds of students walked out of school to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
He said he will do the same thing he did then.
“We would reach out to parents and schedule a parent conference to let them know this is something we don’t want to happen because during the school day, it poses safety concerns and is an interruption to our learning day,” the superintendent said.
Maher is doing the appropriate thing legally.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has sent a letter to superintendents around the state, warning them that discipline cannot be any different than a normal departure from school.
“You can’t punish these students more severely because they’re going out for a protest than if they were going out across the street to get a burger,” said ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown said.
Students said they are going, regardless of the punishment.
Jordon Edmond, a junior at the Village Green Virtual Charter School, said it’s not a choice.
“If we want our voices heard, then we have to,” Edmond said. “So, if a student feels not safe, then we have to speak up.”
Olivia Rogrigues, a freshman, shared similar sentiments.
"I want the president to hear my voice. I want the legislative branches to hear my voice. I want our governor and our mayor -- and the mayor of every city -- the mayor of every city -- I want them to hear our voice," she said.
The administration at the school is supporting the walk-out.
Dean of Students Joline Spencer spoke to NBC 10.
“We’re all a community,” she said. “We’re all a family, so we’re working towards the same goal.”
Rochelle Baker, who is the chief operating officer at the school, said she is proud of the students.
“If we go to the State House and unify with other schools, students coming together, it sends a strong message that kids are becoming more aware,” Baker said. “They are taking a stand against gun violence.”