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New Rochelle Gives “Unexcused Absences” to Students in Walk-out


New Rochelle High School is saying no to students wishing to participate in a national walkout Wednesday to honor the victims of the High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Students across the country will participate in a 17-minute walkout demonstration at 10 a.m. on March 14 to honor the 17 victims of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to demonstrate for stronger gun control laws.

At Mamaroneck High School, students who attend the rally will be marked absent or late to class.  No disciplinary action will be taken. The school says it does expect police presence at the event.

The New Rochelle School District is saying that it does not condone participation in the walk-out, and also clarified the punishments for students who participate.

Here is the letter of explanation from the school’s leaders:

Dear New Rochelle High School Families,

Students at New Rochelle High School have discussed with school administration their intent to participate in a 17-minute walkout demonstration at 10 a.m. on March 14 to honor the 17 victims of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and to demonstrate for stronger gun control laws

We applaud our students’ desire to be part of the political process and to make their voices heard.  Students and staff have the right to free speech, and the right to assemble.  In a school context, however, there are limitations on those rights that exist to preserve the orderly functioning of school and to safeguard students from viewpoint discrimination.  As a school, we cannot endorse the walkout because it is political speech and disruptive of the school day.  We will, however, do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our students and staff.

To ensure safety, students who decide to participate in the walkout are asked to congregate on the front fields and not leave school grounds.  Administrators, counselors and teachers who are not teaching during third period will provide supervision for the event.  The campus will be closed to all visitors from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.  Additional security and police personnel will patrol the periphery of the campus.

Since the walkout is not a sanctioned school event, participating in it is a form of civil disobedience and the standard consequences for missing or leaving class early will apply.  Students who miss a class will have the absence recorded as an unexcused absence. Students who arrive to school or class late will be marked late. Classroom routines will continue as normal to support the students who decide to stay in class.

We recognize there will be different opinions about whether students should be allowed to participate in this demonstration.  We respect everyone’s opinion and we encourage you to talk with your child about his or her choices for Wednesday.  We are also impressed with the thoughtfulness and passion of the students who have discussed the walkout with us.  As always, if there are any parent or student concerns, please feel free to reach out to your child’s house principal or guidance counselor.

Thank you,

Brian Osborne


City School District of New Rochelle

Reginald Richardson


New Rochelle High School


Joyce Newman
Joyce Newman
Joyce H. Newman is an Emmy Award-winning environmental journalist, educator, and gardener. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden, and is a tour guide there.


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John Hodgson, M.D.
John Hodgson, M.D.
March 28, 2018 11:29 AM

In this country, guns are more important than children’s lives, and our schoolchildren know that. They also know that Congress is totally beholden to the NRA, and therefore will do nothing to address the toll of thousands of gun deaths over the years. But they want to do something about it, and last weekend, they did. Their voices were heard, but our School hierarchy clearly do not agree with their stand. They should listen to their own students, as they “do not know better”.

March 17, 2018 10:55 AM

The school’s response is tone deaf. It is a sad statement that marching to protect students from being killed in their classrooms is considered “political.”

March 15, 2018 10:19 AM

The tone of this implies that an “unexcused absence” is a punishment. If you are not in school, you are absent. That’s the rule. The rule does not give a provision for participating in a protest. Should the kids who walked out get a free pass? What if the protest was for the pro-life movement….or a pro-second Amendment march . Would THOSE students deserve a free pass?
If you feel passionately enough about an anti-gun march, or any other issue, to walk out of school…an “unexcused absence” is a small price to pay.

Joyce H. Newman
March 13, 2018 8:57 PM

Additional note based on reporting in “Education Week”:
“While students do have a constitutional right to protest under the 1st Amendment, their rights can be limited. According to the ACLU, districts can discipline students for violating school policy around disruptions if the protest interrupts the educational environment. Schools can also discipline students for cutting class. But administrators cannot levy harsher punishment for students who participate in the walkouts than they would for a similar violation of school policy….said Esha Bhandari, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s national office, ‘The real key is whether the schools are imposing harsher penalties on the kids who walk out for this protest as opposed to kids who are absent for any other reason.’

The ACLU is encouraging students to read their district’s policies on unexcused absences, suspensions, and truancy.”

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