SAYREVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — As schools across the country prepare for a student walkout on Wednesday to protest gun violence, at least one school district in New Jersey has warned students that they’ll face punishment if they leave class.
Some students at Sayreville War Memorial High School had plans to cut class in solidarity with Florida school shooting survivors along with thousands of others across the United States.
But now they’re not so sure.
“They made an announcement this morning saying that if students walk out there will be consequences, most likely they’ll get suspended,” senior Liana Torres said.
Torres says school officials told them it could be dangerous to skip out and take part in the political protest.
“Our principal, Mr. Brown, he’s been saying that we shouldn’t do it because it’s a huge safety risk and that it makes us more of a target,” senior Anne-Marie Afriyie said. “There’s a bigger chance of an accident happening maybe another school shooting we don’t know who’s going to be in that crowd.”
Some students say standing outside is no different than a fire drill. They plan to leave class for 17 minutes in remembrance of the 17 killed in exactly one month after the tragedy, even if it means getting in trouble.
“I am worried about it but I would rather fight for what’s right then a little suspension,” senior Sydney Calder said.
It’s not just high school students who want to take part, but elementary kids too. Nancy Dias says her sixth grade son asked her to help him organize an assembly as an alternative to the walkout. She believes it’s a teachable moment.
“That way our kids are safe, they still have the opportunity to be engaged, ask questions, and the school district sent me an email saying ‘thank you’,” she said. “They would not even entertain that and it’s very disheartening.”
Officials from Sayreville Schools declined to comment, but members of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Spoke with CBS2. They say the school board did confirm they will issue suspensions, and the ACLU wants to make sure students know their rights.
“If a student was to skip school entirely, they would be subject to less discipline, they way Sayreville is treating this, than students who left class for 15 minutes, to engage in this free speech activity,” an ACLU spokesperson told CBS2.
With the walkout fast approaching, some students want their schools to know it’s not too late to plan something meaningful.
“I think we should be able to construct a 17 minute program to help out those families,” senior Joseph Gonce said.
A handful of students say despite the warnings, they’ll still wear red and deal with the consequences later. Some colleges have stated that suspension records for political protest will be waived on student applications.