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California teacher sent home after questioning double standard on school gun control protests

Students from Harvest Collegiate High School take part in a national walkout to protest gun violence Wednesday at the fountain in Washington Square Park in New York, one month after the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida. A teacher in California was placed on administrative leave for questioning whether there was a double standard for gun control protests. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

A teacher in California was placed on paid administrative leave after questioning the politics behind the National School Walkout in a discussion with her students, KOVR-TV reported Wednesday night.

What happened?

Julianne Benzel, a history teacher at Rocklin High School in Rocklin, California, said she wanted to open up a dialogue in her class last Thursday and Friday about the politics of organized protests.

Benzel wanted to discuss with her students the question of whether it’s appropriate for a school to support gun violence protests if it wouldn’t support other types of protests. But she said she never discouraged the students from taking part in the planned walkout.

“And so I just kind of used the example, which I know it’s really controversial, but I know it was the best example I thought of at the time — a group of students nationwide, or even locally, decided ‘I want to walk out of school for 17 minutes’ and go in the quad area and protest abortion, would that be allowed by our administration?” Benzel asked.

She said the administration didn’t talk to her about her lecture last week.

What was the student reaction?

Benzel said none of her students reacted negatively to her discussions, and they seemed to agree that there should not be a double standard for protests. One of her students, Nick Wade, even decided not to participate in the walkout as a result.

“I feel like if we were to go to school and say something like I want to walk out maybe for abortion rights, then you know they probably wouldn’t let us because that’s more of a conservative push,” Wade told KOVR. “But someone wants to say let’s walk out for gun control then the school’s going to go with it because it’s more of a popular view.”

What was the school’s statement?

A Rocklin High School spokesperson issued a statement: “A Rocklin High School teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave due to several complaints from parents and students involving the teacher’s communications regarding today’s student-led civic engagement activities.”

What’s next?

Benzel said she has retained legal counsel and will meet with Rocklin High School administrators this week.

One last thing…
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