Cobb Students Find Out Punishments After Walkout

Crowd members hold signs at a National Stop School Shootings Now rally in front of the Georgia State Capitol on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.
Crowd members hold signs at a National Stop School Shootings Now rally in front of the Georgia State Capitol on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.
Credit Ian Palmer / WABE
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A week after nationwide school walkouts following the Parkland shooting, punishments for some Cobb County student participants remain unclear.

In advance of the event, the Cobb County School District issued a statement that said participants could face consequences for disrupting school operations but declined to elaborate.

Students and parents at some Cobb schools now are getting word of their punishments. Wednesday, District spokesman John Stafford said only that schools are each “administering appropriate consequences to students who violated the Student Code of Conduct.” He cited students’ privacy rights as his reason for not commenting further.

Multiple high schools referred requests for further clarity back to the district.

Stephanie Clement, a parent of a Pope High School walkout participant, said she got notice her daughter will have to serve one day of in-school suspension next week. Other students will be punished similarly, according to Clement’s daughter.

While she disagrees with the county’s decision not to support the walkout, Clement said she does “understand their ‘need’ to follow through with some form of punishment” as a result.

One day of in-school suspension seems fair to her.

“I’m OK with one day of in-school suspension,” she said. “Had it been more than that … I think it would have been too much.”

Clement said her daughter plans to spend her in-school suspension time writing to members of Congress. She said her daughter remains committed to protesting against violence and plans to participate in the March for our Lives on Saturday.

At Wheeler High School, students say some of them got a day of in-school suspension, but others didn’t.

“Nobody knows why some kids have gotten [punished] and others have not,” said Rhea Singi, a freshman and walkout organizer at Wheeler.

On the day of the walkout, Singi said teachers lined up to block the doors. She said she had to ask to push past teachers to go outside and witnessed other students turn around instead.

Dan Kerik, another walkout organizer at Wheeler, said he does not agree with the way the county handled the event.

Schools “should have taken this as a teachable moment about how society actually works,” the freshman said. “It’s something they could have used to teach us how to protest peacefully as citizens of the United States.”

Hannah Andress, an organizer of the walkout at Lassiter High School, said she expects her punishment to be similar to those at other schools. Lassiter Principal Chris Richie’s office said no decisions have been made.

Andress said Richie told her students should not expect “anything harsher than what other schools are doing.”

Andress, a senior, thinks in-school suspension is reasonable but unfortunate for the younger participants who will have the suspensions on their records during the college application process.

She said she is disappointed in the way the Cobb County Board of Education handled the incident and feels her voice is being silenced.

“It’s their job to provide us with an education and safe space to learn,” said Andress. “The walkout was probably one of the most significant educational experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”