High school student Jake Shoemaker, a senior at Hilliard Davidson High School in Ohio, was suspended for refusing to "follow instructions" when he opted to remain neutral during a nationwide student walkout on Wednesday.
Shoemaker was given the choice of either participating in a walkout to protest gun violence, or to attend study hall. He felt both of those options would brand him for taking a political position, so instead he sat in his designated classroom, alone, for the duration of the protest.
In an interview with WSYX-TV, Shoemaker said "I really didn't have a choice here. If you walked out you were with the protest, you were for gun control and anti-gun violence. And if you sat in this pit with all these other people you were pro gun-violence."
The student further defended his decision, saying "It's the least political protest that exists. The thing that I was protesting was politics in the classroom. I feel it has no place in a school, in a district, anywhere."
A day before the protest, Shoemaker met with the school's principal to discuss the purpose of the protest. According to Shoemaker, the principal explained that the walkout was a way for "students to express themselves."
During the protest, Shoemaker says he just worked on his homework. When his teacher and the other students returned, he was served a one-day suspension slip.
Hilliard City Schools says the reason for the suspension is Shoemaker's choice to be unsupervised, since they're responsible for students' safety. District spokesperson Stacie Raterman said in an email, "I can only confirm that no student was suspended for not walking out, nor were any suspended for walking out."
Upon receiving his suspension, Shoemaker sent a photo of the citation to a friend, who subsequently posted it online. Since then, Shoemaker, his father (whose phone number was posted on the documentation) and the school district have all received a barrage of calls, including death threats.
While Shoemaker's father, Scott, says he supports his son's decision and reasoning, he had also warned Jake that there would likely be repercussions. Scott opposed the school's decision to suspend Jake, but also voiced his support of them overall. "They're good people," he said, "They did what they felt they had to do. I do not agree with the decision and I told them that."