Image source: Instagram, Walkout 2 Learn
This Friday, April 21, tens of thousands of students will be walking out of schools in Florida in protest of government censorship. This is projected to be the largest student protest in Florida’s history.
What exactly are they protesting? Well, you can read all the reasons we’re worried about Florida here, but in short, Governor DeSantis’ actions to remove books, curricula, courses, and DEI programs from Florida schools sends a clear message about whose history he thinks is worth telling, and it’s not that of Black people, women, or the LGBTQ+ community.
Students will be walking out at 12 p.m. and listen to a 5-minute banned history lesson from one of their peers. Then (and this is my favorite part), students will be invited to enroll in a virtual, college-level African American History summer course to earn a certification they can put on college applications, and the course is created by some of the same professors who wrote the banned AP course.
Are you a teacher in Florida? Here are three ways you can support the students at your school who have decided to walk out.
1. Make it easy for your students to walk out.
Even if you can’t walk out yourself, you can help students by making it easier for them to do so. Don’t plan a rigorous, crucial lesson or test for Friday or penalize them for walking out. Even if your school has directed teachers to have a united front on being anti-walkout, you can say, “I know we had a quiz scheduled for Friday, but I’m just letting you know I’ve moved it to later to have a student workday. If you’re planning to have a dentist appointment, doctor appointment, or any other reason to be out, Friday would be a great day to do it.” Any students hoping to participate in the walkout will catch your drift.
2. Let them lead, but help them facilitate.
Our students are whole people who are capable of meaningful leadership right now. Let them take the lead on this protest, but make sure you have the right info to support them.
- Make sure they’re registered so they have all the right information.
- Make sure they’re safe. Talk to your administration and school resource officers to make sure they have a plan in place for student safety.
- Back them if needed with administration or other teachers. Be ready to defend their rights as they relate to the First Amendment in schools.
3. Join them.
Even if you’re in a right-to-work state or have explicit instruction from your school that teachers who walk will be penalized, you can still participate by:
- Making posters for students to carry. Use your own materials and time if you’re worried about school retaliation.
- Arranging a photographer or contacting local media to capture the walkout.
- Sharing on social media how proud you are of your students for exercising their First Amendment rights.
Different districts and schools will have their own ways of managing the student walkouts on April 21. But no matter where you are, knowing your students’ rights (and your own) will help you support them as they make their voices heard.