OPINION: Students should be allowed to leave school for protests

Emma "E.P." Presnell

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It’s hard to be aware of the world and not know the name Greta Thunberg. If you are out of touch on the young activists of the upcoming generation, Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old activist playing a huge role in climate change awareness around the world. She’s always traveling to new countries to speak before each of their governments, urging them to listen to scientists before we do too much permanent damage to our planet. And this girl? She’s only 16 years old. 

But here’s the thing, she’s a teenager. She’s a student skipping her time in the classroom to advocate for something that’s affecting us globally, which is great and important, but raises the question: should students be allowed to leave school to protest and attend rallies without getting in trouble for ditching? The answer is obvious; of course they should be allowed to. 

We have a voice too

The First Amendment states that people have freedom of speech and the right to assemble peacefully, but sometimes it feels as if these rights are limited to only adults and students don’t get a voice. It’s especially amplified when it feels like most of the time you aren’t allowed to voice your opinion at school, where you’re required to spend most of your time. Despite that, you still have a voice and using it at this point in your life is crucial. 

Teenagers are looking at what our world will have for them and further into the future. We have the ability more so than ever now to see what problems we’re facing as a country and as a planet, such as gun violence and global warming, and it’s necessary to speak out about these problems. Why should we have to, you may be asking? Why should we be the ones to speak out about this? 

Because if we don’t, nobody else will. 

It’s a harsh world we live in today, but it’s true. Older generations don’t care as much about our issues because they aren’t affected by them, and most likely won’t be in the future. If it goes past their lifetime, why should they care, even though they are partly to blame because they got us into this situation? 

The problems we see today are problems that we care about and need to bring awareness to, and sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. If teenagers have to miss their school day to go fight for what’s going on that adults in power are failing to see, then a day of class isn’t going to kill them. 

Today, hundreds of thousands of students skipped school to attend protests around the country about the dangers of global warming and climate change to our planet and while it was a great start, this has to continue and students can’t be punished. 

Punishment by the schools

There have been instances in the past where either a teacher or a school will punish students for missing school if they attend a protest during school. One example of teachers restricting students’ rights was during the 2018 March For Our Lives walkout, in which some teachers told their students they would punish them if they walked out of their class. 

Students risk punishment ranging anywhere from detention to suspension when walking out or missing school for a protest, but I’m a firm believer this shouldn’t be the case.

If students feel the need to express their concerns about a major issue, why should they get punished for contributing to a cause that could potentially help a lot of people? If this is the case, why praise someone like Greta Thunberg when she does this on an even more extreme level? It doesn’t make much sense. 

What we should do instead, is make it so students have an easy way to get their work made up and stop punishing students. While school is required by law, students shouldn’t feel ashamed to fight for causes that affect them and future generations to come, in fear of being called out for it. These protests and rallies are also excellent educational opportunities that teenagers should take advantage of when possible. It teaches younger people about the importance of taking a stance and speaking out about what’s important instead of sitting at a desk writing a nice three-point-five essay. 

Teenagers will continue to leave school to protest and raise awareness, it’s just how this generation is. We see the problems in the world and we’re going to stand up for ourselves, so you might as well let us go without unnecessary complications.

Featured Image Citation: “Global Climate Strike 2019-03-15 – 07″ by Garry Knight on Flickr is licensed under Creative Commons Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication. No changes were made to the image. Use of this photo does not indicate photographer endorsement of this article.