The 3 Things You Need to Know As A Student Protestor

I remember my first political demonstration. It was 1999; I was nine years old. I accompanied my father to a protest in Westminster, California. Hundreds were gathered outside a video store that displayed a photo of Ho Chi Minh and a flag of communist Vietnam. If there was a man who could single-handedly be accused of tearing my home country apart, it would be him. He ignited a civil war that killed hundreds in its wake and imprisoned hundreds more for their political beliefs. Displaying his photo was the equivalent of displaying a photo of Hitler in a Jewish community.

A decade later, I was joining thousands of California college students in a statewide protest against the rising cost of university fees. In addition to the defense of an affordable public education, students were taking a stand for diversity; coming off an incident of racial intolerance where a fellow student hung a noose in the library at the University of California, San Diego.

Political protest is no stranger to history. The United States was founded upon revolution. And for as long as students have been reading Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, they have practiced it.

Yesterday, students around the world took to the streets in a united effort to motivate their elected officials to address climate change. It’s been year after year of skyrocketing temperatures and natural disasters. March 15th was the latest protest, but the movement began long ago.

As a student, you might be inspired to do the same and you might ponder the question of what your rights are. Here’s the basic breakdown of rights for public school students in the United States:

1 - You retain your First Amendment rights.

That means your right to free speech. This includes speaking up, petitioning, flyering, and dressing as you please; provided it’s not disruptive. Now “disruptive” might seem subjective, but students have won court cases over the right to wear anti-war armbands, pussycat hats, and LGBTQ support shirts.

Just because the message is controversial doesn’t mean it’s legally prohibited.

2 - You can receive disciplinary action for walking out.  

The law requires most students to attend school so in not attending, you are in violation of the law. However, you should receive the same treatment as a student who decided to skip school to go an amusement park even if you’re skipping school for a demonstration.

3 - Your social media is your own.

Schools cannot punish you for what you say outside of school hours and off-campus that does not relate to the school itself.

Know your rights and know your school’s policy.

“To be a student

and not a revolutionary

is a contradiction.”

- Salvador Allende