(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Protest)

By Joseph Kratz, Editor-in-Chief

On February 14, 2019, School Board Member-at-Large Ryan McElveen proposed that middle school and high school students be allowed to miss one day of school a year to engage “in civic engagement activities by providing prior notification to the school with evidence of a sponsored/organized event of activity.”

The past few years have seen a rise in student engagement and the organization of protests and activism movements. On March 14, 2018 a cloudless sky let the sun beam down on hundreds of students spending most of Jag 5 out of class sitting in silent vigil to protest inaction on gun legislation by state and federal legislators. This proposal is in response to a growing number of political and civil movements by high school, middle school, and even elementary school students — most notably the school walkouts across the country following the Parkland shooting.

This proposal should be passed as soon as possible because it provides an opportunity for students to utilize their First Amendment rights without fear of attendance repercussions.

Students should be encouraged to voice their political opinions and become active citizens. By providing an opportunity for students to engage politically, the school is breeding a generation of responsible citizens; American democracy needs responsible citizens.

Soon-to-be voters who feel like they have a stake and voice in the political process are more likely to vote, and an expanded voter base will reinvigorate American support and belief in the government.

The world is experiencing a shift towards authoritarianism across the globe. Hungary and Poland have slid towards authoritarianism; Xi Jinping is positioned to remain in power for the entirety of his life; Rodrigo Duterte advocates for extrajudicial killings; Nicolas Maduro has a firm, if slipping, grasp on Venezuela. This is why protecting and celebrating civic engagement is so important; it is what makes America, America. It allows students, most of whom can’t vote, to engage in the national political conversation.

Students should be allowed to protest and advocate for causes they believe in. whether they’re advocating for pro-life legislation, a strengthened Second Amendment, a Green New Deal, or a wealth tax, Fairfax County Public Schools should provide them the opportunity.