SULTAN — Students who walked out of class Wednesday at Sultan High School are facing detention.
Superintendent Dan Chaplik said students are not being punished for participating in the walkout. There are consequences for missing class. Students who did not have parent permission were marked truant, resulting in an afterschool “accountability workshop,” or detention, according to the district.
“That’s just an attendance policy,” Chaplik said Friday.
Those who took part in the walkout — joining a national movement in which thousands of Snohomish County students participated — were given a note to bring home.
“Sultan High School preserves your first amendment rights to free assembly and respects your decisions knowing you would accept consequences, yet, this right is limited by the needs of education,” according to the letter, a copy of which was provided by a student to the Daily Herald.
Mary Carbajal, 16, who organized the walkout, spent Thursday serving in-school suspension and writing an essay about what leadership means to her. She also was barred from participating in a track meet based on the school’s athletic and attendance policies, she said. The reason she was given for the in-school suspension was “dishonesty.” The principal had asked her beforehand about plans for the walkout and Carbajal did not share them, she said.
She said that, prior to the walkout, Principal Tami Nesting met with her and wrote on a piece of notebook paper: “I understand if I organize an off-campus walkout I will face consequences per board policy. This may be detention, ISS, longterm out of school suspension or expulsion.” They signed it. Carbajal provided a copy to the newspaper. She didn’t think at the time that she could refuse to sign it, she said.
She returned later to ask for a copy of the note. It had been revised to say she would face consequences if she organized any walkout and that she may face athletic consequences, she said. Carbajal refused to sign the updated note.
The Sultan students joined young people across the U.S. who walked out of class at about 10 a.m. Wednesday, most for 17 minutes. The walkouts were one month after 17 people were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Though events differed in how students chose to protest and what they said, the movement was meant to remember those killed and to call for action on gun laws, mental health and school safety.
In Sultan, the plan had been to walk to a gazebo in town. Students decided to walk to the sports stadium instead to avoid consequences for leaving campus. Administrators also talked to her about safety concerns, Carbajal said.
A message on the Sultan High School website before the walkout noted that students would be subject to “the established Sultan High School Code of Conduct and progressive discipline matrix.” Students were invited to attend an optional remembrance at the end of the school day for the 17 victims of the Florida attack.
During the 10 a.m. walkout, students met in front of the school, linked arms and walked to the stadium, chanting: “Spread love, not hate. We just want to graduate.” At the stadium, several students spoke. The group walked back to school, circled up and bowed their heads for 17 seconds of silence. Carbajal estimates between 30 and 40 students participated.
“It’s not about the size of the audience, but rather the size of the hearts that are delivering the message,” she said. “If 90 students would have showed up, but only five truly cared, the message wouldn’t be so strong, would it?”
In the assigned essay, she wrote that a leader must be passionate, have a good heart and rely on faith in God.
“They have to be brave and willing/prepared to receive hate and any unjustified, unnecessary and illogical consequence and punishment from rogue people who are against them,” she wrote. “Most importantly, a good leader follows their heart and works to make the world a better place.”
Other local school districts shared information before the walkouts in letters to families. Several decided to excuse absences. Others noted that classes would continue as normal, attendance policies would be enforced and students would be marked absent if they left class. Students who chose to protest were asked to respect their peers with different opinions and not to disrupt classes.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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