Schools across the country may be quiet during several upcoming dates.
American students are organizing walkouts in protest of the nation's gun laws following the tragic Parkland school shootings which took the lives of 17 people.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have become the face of the demonstration after taking up the cause in response to the traumatic event carried out on their campus. The students have even caught the attention of high profile celebrities such as George and Amal Clooney, Oprah and Steven Spielberg, all who have pledged to donate $500,000 towards their fight towards stricter gun control laws.
Students who are planning to participate in walkouts should know their rights before heading out to protest.
So, can schools discipline students for choosing to walkout?
The short answer is, yes.
California law requires everyone between ages six and 18 years old to attend school. Due to the law, schools typically do hold a right to take disciplinary action if a student misses class, even if it's for a protest or in another form of expression. A student who misses more than 30 minutes of class without an excuse, three times during the school year is classified as a truant under state law.
However, schools can't punish students more harshly than they would for any other unexcused absence if a class is missed for a walkout, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Schools can't bring more serious consequences to students for expressing a political view — even if the view isn't supported by school administrators. In other words, a student can't be punished over context of the walkout, they can only face disciplined if they've missed class without permission.
City and school districts generally have their own policies on school absences and it's important to understand the consequences of an action when planning a walkout.
The City of Sacramento follows the state law for student absences and works in partnership with the city police department to make sure children stay in school.
In most cases, a typical student with no history of truancy shouldn't face heavy consequences for walking out of class in protest. It would be an extreme step to even see a suspension over a walkout unless a student is already chronically truant.
California education code states, "It is the intent of the Legislature that alternatives to suspension or expulsion be imposed against a pupil who is truant, tardy, or otherwise absent from school activities."
While schools shouldn't suspend or expel students for choosing to participate in a walkout, many districts do have a limit on where truancy can result in a student being removed from school. The Sacramento City Unified School District general policy states, excessive absences of more than 10 days, "may be grounds for discontinuation of services."
The ACLU advises students to be peaceful and organized when participating in a walkout. Students can still be punished for disruptive behavior or actions on their way off campus. If a school threatens to punish students over a walkout, students should check their school policy handbook to see what the consequences could be to make sure the punishment is fairly applied.
Students should also check with their teachers to make sure they can make up the work missed in class.
If students choose to protest in other ways rather than a walkout, they are allowed to hold peaceful sit-in demonstrations on campus, according to the ACLU. However, the school can limit the time and place of the protest and can take measures to make sure the sit-in is safe and not causing a dangerous disturbance.
Students can also pass out flyers and wear buttons expressing their views as long as its not obscene or libelous.
Some students have expressed concern on whether or not disciplinary action from walkout absences can affect their chances of getting into their university of choice.
Dozens of college and universities are telling students who may face discipline at their high schools for participating in gun control demonstrations to relax: It won't affect their chances of getting into their schools.
Nearly 50 schools including Yale, Dartmouth and UCLA have taken to social media to reassure the students.