Facebook user Kenny MacDonald shared a video reportedly taken during Wednesday’s nationwide school walkouts to bring attention to gun violence that has gone viral. The video has had more than 2 million views.
MacDonald, whose Facebook page says that he is a student at New Prague High School in New Prague, Minnesota, documented what appeared to be an encounter between a school official and a student who was holding a sign defending guns during the protest.
What are the details?
MacDonald, in his post, explained that he was part of the school’s Wednesday walkout protest to honor those who lost their lives in February’s mass killing at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
He explained that some students (not pictured) held signs during the protest that stated, “Arm our teachers,” and one sign — which was only partially shown — said, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
According to MacDonald’s account of the incident, a man he identified as the principal escorted the student who was holding the gun-defending sign off of school property.
“Kids at our school today walked out, in honor of the 17 students killed in Florida,” MacDonald wrote. “Students held signs that said, ‘Arm our teachers’ they had two signs. A student walked out without saying a word peacefully put up his sign which said ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ he was escorted off the property by our principal and threatened to be put into a police car. This violates the first amendment and makes me sick that they can do whatever they want. Please make this go viral.”
You can watch the video below.
If you notice, the adult that MacDonald identified as the principal, can be heard citing “policy 505.”
“Policy 505” refers to the New Prague Area Schools’ policy on the “Distribution of Non-School Sponsored Materials on School Premises by Students and Employees.”
According to the school’s website, the purpose of the policy is “to protect the exercise of students’ and employees’ free speech rights, taking into consideration the educational objectives and responsibilities of the school district.”
The policy’s “general statement of policy” states:
The school district recognizes that students and employees have the right to express themselves on school property. This protection includes the right to distribute, at a reasonable time and place and in a reasonable manner, non-school-sponsored material.
According to the policy, the sign falls under “non-school sponsored material.”
The policy says students are allowed to distribute such material at “reasonable times and places” as well as “in a reasonable manner.”
Items always prohibited include materials that is considered “obscene to minors,” “libelous or slanderous,” “pervasively indecent or vulgar,” “advertises or promotes any product or service not permitted to minors by law,” “advocates violence or other illegal conduct,” contains “insulting or fighting words,” presents a clear likelihood that the material will cause a “substantial disruption of the proper and orderly operation and discipline of the school or school activities.”
All materials are, of course, subject to review by the school and would be considered on a case-by-case basis, and the policy requests that those materials are submitted for review by the administration at least 24 hours in advance.
What did the school say?
The school issued the following statement Thursday:
Yesterday approximately 100 of our high school students participated in a walkout, as did many of their peers across the country. The walkout was conducted peacefully and without conflict. Since then, attention has been focused on a sign that was present during the walkout.
The District has a policy that such items must be submitted to and reviewed by school administration at least 24-hours in advance. In compliance with the District’s policy “… to protect the exercise of students’ and employees’ free speech rights, [while] taking into consideration the educational objectives and responsibilities of the School District,” the sign was moved to non-school grounds. The District has an obligation to enforce this policy without regard to political viewpoint.
No student was disciplined and law enforcement was not involved with any of the students present during the walkout.
New Prague Area Schools fully respects and recognizes that students have free speech rights. Those rights, however, are to be balanced against the District’s responsibility to maintain a school environment focused on education. The District’s administration has an obligation to enforce the policy, which is known as a “time, place, and manner restriction.” For more information, our policy #505 can be found on our district website at npaschools.org.