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School districts, colleges say they support peaceful student protests

Applicants to area colleges will not have to worry about whether they’ll be accepted if they are disciplined for participating in a walkout protest in support of school safety.

Students at numerous high schools across the country have participated in, or are planning, school walkouts to call attention to safety and gun issues. The protests are in response to the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., school shooting, in which 17 students and school employees were killed.

Reports from across the country show that some school districts have threatened to punish students. The principal of Colerain High School near Cincinnati said that students will be considered truant if they walk out of class.

For the most part though, both colleges and area school district leaders have come out in support of the peaceful protests, with many saying there will be no punishment. Close to 250 students walked out of the Dayton Regional STEM school on Feb. 21 but a spokesperson said the district supported the protest.

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“We’re preparing for it actually,” said Paul Waller, Oakwood High School principal. “I’m working with some student leaders and kind of having discussions about what they want to do and we want to support them in that. There won’t be any discipline assigned and whatever we do we will work with the Oakwood Safety Department.”

Oakwood students are planning some form of protest and students are also organizing to take a bus to Washington, D.C. for the March For Our Lives on March 24.

Student leaders at Dayton Public Schools are working with the district’s administration to figure out appropriate ways for students to support the protests but not necessarily walkouts, spokeswoman Marsha Bonhart said via email. Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said that students will be able to participate constructively within the “rules of DPS policies.”

Students at Stivers School for the Arts have created a walkout page on Twitter and principal Erin Dooley is meeting with students.

“I think they represent good role modeling for their peers, but they must understand there are other ways to participate,” Dooley said in a prepared statement.

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Even if any high school students are punished for peacefully protesting, they likely will not face any sort of penalty when applying to area colleges.

The University of Dayton said via Twitter that it “supports students’ rights to engage in peaceful protest that seek to bring about social and cultural change.”

“While some high schools have threatened disciplinary action against students who participate in demonstrations, the University will not penalize students who report their punishment for participating in peaceful events,” UD said in its official Twitter account on Sunday afternoon.

UD is one of dozens of universities have told students in the past week that if they are suspended or otherwise disciplined for peaceful protests, it will not affect their chances of admission. The list includes elite private universities like Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as public universities such as West Virginia University, Miami University and Wright State University.

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A Miami leader recently tweeted that students who participate in peaceful protests should now that “we have your back.”

“Miami University stands with high school students across the nation who are peacefully protesting against gun violence,” the school said in a tweet from Michael Kabbaz, senior vice president for enrollment management.

Like Miami and UD leaders, Wittenberg University president Michael Frandsen gave his support to peaceful high school protests in a social media post over the weekend.

“Wittenberg has always looked for students who want to make a difference. This is infused in our mission, and we believe these are the students who will enhance our community,” the university said via Twitter. “Wittenberg would never penalize students in our admission decision-making process for wanting change and working peacefully and lawfully to make it happen.”

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