Why MCPS should pass the KEA proposal (opinion)


photo by AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Students walked out of school to protest gun violence in response to the previous month's shooting of 17 people at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

by Kelly Chicas Staff Writer

As of September 2018, according to the Gun Violence Archive, “There have been 262 American mass shootings (4+ shot or killed in the same incident, not including the shooter) in the 263 days of 2018”. Unfortunately, many of these shootings occured in schools. Perhaps, the tragedy that galvanized America more than any other was the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14th, 2018 – and the political movement for gun reform that ensure after it.

On March 14th, 2018, students from Montgomery County and the greater DMV area walked out of school and took to Washington, D.C. to protest gun violence and advocate for improved gun laws in America. Many students, including myself participated in this political protest and left school. The absence was not excused – leaving a large amount of students with no choice but to remain at school.

Montgomery County Board of Education is currently considering a proposed the motion to allow up to three excused absences per year for students to engage in political protests or civic engagement, as long as they have a “parental written parent/guardian consent, and notification to approval of the principal or his/her designee.” This means that students will have a chance to express their political dissent and participate in our nation’s democracy and involved without having to worry about hurting attendance records or being punished by their schools.

As someone that is very concerned with my safety, along with the safety of my peers, I want to be politically active in the ways that I can, in order to ensure my voice is heard and my concerns are expressed.

In today’s society, it is near impossible for one to live their daily lives in ignorance of current events, and that includes us teens. We’re just as outraged by massacres, hate crimes, and acts of intolerance as the next guy, but what makes us even more upset is when our government refuses to do anything about it. We all need to speak up. After all, we are the future of this nation. It is important to allow students to be able to feel as though they can vocalize their beliefs in a nation with supposed values surrounding inclusiveness, without penalizing them for it. An environment that actively discourages civic participation among its youth will surely lead to a politically disengaged adult population.

It is also tragically ignorant to categorize teenagers who walk out of school as careless students looking for an excuse to skip class. While this may be true to a certain extent, it’s important to remember that young people were on the forefront of almost every major political movement in American history, from the Civil Rights movement to the Anti-War protests.

John Dewey, and American philosopher and educational reformer once wrote that, “The main purpose of the American school is to provide for the fullest possible development of each learner for living morally, creatively, and productively in a democratic society.”

If this goal is to be achieved in Montgomery County, then the Board of Education has an obligation to ensure its students are prepared to be active contributors to our democracy – and passing this measure is an excellent first step.