Students across the country are expected to walk out of their classrooms Wednesday morning to protest gun violence. The National School Walkout is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in every time zone and last for 17 minutes -- a minute for each life lost in the Parkland school shooting.
If you're a student who's thinking of taking part (or the parent of one), you probably have lots of questions: Can the school retaliate? Will it hurt your chances of college? Can you just stay home for the day?
1. Can my school punish me for taking part?
If you're just participating: Your school can (since students are required to be in school) but many won't as long as the students aren't being disruptive. Remember, students have a First Amendment right to protest, just like anybody else. The landmark Tinker v. Des Moines casepretty much settled that legal question. In it, the Supreme Court ruled students don't "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
Some schools could hit students who walk out with an unexcused absence. That could be a bigger problem if a student already has a lot of those and the extra one results in him or her being considered truant.
If the walkout turns disruptive: In that case, schools can stop students from participating. They can also take some punitive measures. But they can't punish students just because the district doesn't like the brand of politics that powers the protests.
2. Can I be arrested?
Generally, students don't have to worry about being arrested -- unless, of course, they start breaking laws, like blocking a street while protesting.