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Teacher Placed On Leave Following Class Debate on Student Protests

A California teacher’s punishment opens up discussion about free speech and protest in schools.

Audrey Bowers

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According to the New York Post, Juliane Benzel, a history teacher at Rocklin High School in Rocklin, California has been placed on paid administrative leave this week after opening up the debate on what types of protests and agendas should be supported by schools across the nation.

Benzel used an example of what would happen if a student decided that they wanted to conduct a walk out centered around abortion rather than gun control during a debate in her class.

“I want to walk out of school for 17 minutes’ and go in the quad area and protest abortion, would that be allowed by our administration?” she told news station KOVR.

According to Benzel, there is a double standard in what can be protested.

One student, Nick Wade, said that he felt like a protest for a more conservative sided issue wouldn’t be allowed because it’s not popular: “I feel like if we were to go to school and say something like I want to walk out maybe for abortion rights, then you know they probably wouldn’t let us because that’s more of a conservative push. But someone wants to say let’s walk out for gun control then the school’s going to go with it because it’s more of a popular view.”

The school’s administration told her that they disagreed with her remarks, and on National Walkout Day she got the letter telling her that she would be placed on leave.

Whether or not you agree with Benzel’s viewpoint, this story opens up important questions about walk outs and protests in general, such as: Who should have the right to peacefully protest? What types of protests should schools support, if any? and Who gets to determine whether or not a protest is disruptive to a school environment or harmful in nature?

 

Audrey Bowers is a creative writing major at Ball State University. She enjoys writing for CMN as well as for her school's newspaper, Study Breaks magazine and other publications. You'll probably find her drinking iced coffee and retweeting pictures of corgis.

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