More than 1,000 students from a Chicago-area suburban school district will be disciplined for joining the nationwide school walkout and calling for immediate action to prevent gun violence on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting.
According to Community High School District 99 in Downers Grove, a total of 1,100 students who participated in the walkout Wednesday will face various consequences for violating school policy and leaving class unexcused.
For students receiving their first unexcused absence, the discipline will be a one-hour detention to be served before or after school or on a Saturday, school officials said.
It wasn't immediately clear what punishment was given to students who had previously received unexcused absences.
According to Jill Browning, director of communications for the district, the students were offered alternative options that "would not disturb the educational environment," including a student-led march taking place on March 24. But the students said they were "not interested in options outside of March 14 during the school day."
"Students have shared they consider the detention a 'badge of honor' and a symbol they truly are protesting and standing up for their rights at a personal cost," Browning said in a statement. "If you read their accounts in the school newspaper at South High, you will see our students take great pride in standing up for what they believe in. Many feel that a detention for leaving class is a small price to exercise their rights and draw attention to their cause. When several of our student leaders heard that some schools were not assigning consequences, they shared with administration they didn't feel this was a good idea. Students believed that in order to be taken seriously, they should show they are committed enough to receive a consequence."
Students at schools across the country and all around the Chicago area left school at 10 a.m. for at least 17 minutes - one minute for each of the victims killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
In the weeks following the massacre in Florida, students from across Chicago and the suburbs have joined the movement, pushing for legislation reforming gun laws at the federal and state level.
The protest came just one day after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill to license gun dealers in Illinois, calling it "onerous" regulation.
Wednesday's walkout was planned to inspire change, giving young people an opportunity to speak out and for students to express their frustration at inaction, organizers said.
The walkout also raised questions for schools about how to handle the protests, with the approach varying depending on the district. Education administrators have said they're striking a delicate balance between encouraging civic engagement and keeping their students safe.
"If a school system picks a side on issues like this we immediately invalidate and minimize some of our student's perspectives," Browning said. "We need to be supportive of all students. This week we supported the 1,100 students that chose to walkout and the other 3,900 that decided to stay in class. Some of those students stayed behind because they didn’t want to participate, or did not feel strongly enough about the topic to accept consequences for their actions. Still others hadn’t yet formed an opinion, or were simply not in favor of some of the politics around this issue. We are responsible for showing we care about all of our students, regardless of their political views."