The superintendent of a Houston-area school district threatened students with three-day suspensions if they participate in gun violence protests during school hours.
Student-led protests and walkouts have erupted across the country in the wake of the deadly mass shooting last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. Participants have focused their energy on demanding lawmakers take action against gun violence.
But Curtis Rhodes, superintendent of Needville Independent School District, warned students that they would face “consequences” for participating in such demonstrations.
“Please be advised that the Needville ISD will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness!!” Rhodes wrote in a statement posted Tuesday to Needville High School’s Facebook page. “Should students choose to do so, they will be suspended from school for 3 days and face all the consequences that come along with an out of school suspension.”
“Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative,” he wrote. “We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved.”
Amanda Johnson, a volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, accused Rhodes of “fear-mongering” and creating “a missed opportunity.”
“I can’t believe that the superintendent, instead of cooperating with the students, is threatening them the way that he is,” she said. “School shootings are far more disruptive than a school walkout.”
School officials at one high school in Hollywood, Florida, roughly 30 miles to the south of Stoneman Douglas, told students there would “consequences” if they participated in a walkout on Wednesday.
Ben Gamla Preparatory Academy Principal Gayle Iacono later agreed to let students protest for 17 minutes at noon in the school parking lot. But when students began the demonstration, they found the school’s entry gates were locked, preventing them from leaving the school grounds.
Students who jumped the fence to protest in front of the school were led back to class by school security personnel, according to local ABC affiliate WPLG-TV.
Representatives for the Needville district and Ben Gamla Preparatory did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
In contrast, some school districts have taken a more supportive approach to the demonstrations. For instance, the Leon County school system in Tallahassee, Florida, announced that it would excuse students who participated in a rally Wednesday at the state Capitol.
“Parents ultimately decide whether their children should attend school or participate in an out of school activity,” a statement posted to the district’s Facebook page said.
“These kids have got a very valid concern,” Johnson said, noting that her organization’s membership on Facebook had tripled since last week’s shooting. “They’re literally in fear for their lives.”