Backwoods School Punishes Students Protesting Gun Violence With Physical Violence

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After the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students around the country were galvanized into advocating for common sense gun safety measures.

The students of Parkland were precise in their strategy. They advocated for legislative solutions to gun violence:

Students bravely confronted the National Rifle Association and its financial interest in preventing any gun control measures:

Basically, these students were getting stuff DONE.

They aimed to open up conversation about gun control and remind students that as they were the ones effected by gun violence in schools, their voices were important. One of the first wide-spread coordinated student events was the mass walkout on March 14, 2017.

Students used the opportunity to speak their hearts about the anxiety of going to school in the age of mass-shootings:

Outpourings of support were everywhere, with the media, politicians, and parents awed at the students’ level of civic engagement.

But schools were much less supportive.

In rural Arkansas, three students had the fortitude to walk out of their classes for 17 minutes. The response of the school was telling:

The students were out of class for 17 minutes, calling attention to the fact that the simple act of going to school is fraught with danger and anxiety. They were pointing out the extreme apathy towards fixing the problem.

Both choices the school district offered were problematic. Two days of in-school suspension means two whole days away from assignments, instruction, and classroom discussion. Corporal punishment means that students protesting an educational environment full of violence were subjected to violence by their educators.

Corporal punishment is astonishingly still allowed in 22 states in the U.S.

The Daily Beast reached out to one of the students, Wylie Greer, for a statement. Greer shared how the other students were reacting to his walking out to protest gun violence:

‘Many students were vocally insulting and degrading to the idea of the walk-out and anyone who would participate. At 10:00, I walked out of my classroom to a few gaped mouths and more than a few scowls.’

Soon, as two other students joined Greer in front of the school, the principal (Steve Landers)G, approached:

‘We sat outside the front of the building and were approached first by the principal, who asked us “if he could help us” and “if we understood that there would be consequences.” After we answered affirmatively, he went back inside.’

When they returned to class:

‘…all three of us were called individually to talk with the dean-of-students. He offered us two choices of punishment, both of which had to be approved by our parents. We would either suffer two ‘swats’ from a paddle or two days of in-school suspension. All three of us chose the paddling, with the support of our parents.’

Greer describes the punishment itself:

‘I received my punishment during 6th period. The dean-of-students carried it out while the assistant principal witnessed. The punishment was not dealt with malice or cruelty, in fact, I have the utmost respect for all the adults involved. They were merely doing their job as the school board and school policy dictated. The ‘swats’ were not painful or injuring. It was nothing more than a temporary sting on my thighs.’

Shockingly, the dean-of-students ended the punishment with a threat:

‘The dean-of-students did stress however that not all punishments like this ended this way.’

Wylie Greer sums up his experience, advocating for the end of corporal punishment in schools:

‘I believe that corporal punishment has no place in schools, even if it wasn’t painful to me. The idea that violence should be used against someone who was protesting violence as a means to discipline them is appalling. I hope that this is changed, in Greenbrier, and across the country.’

Twitter has been hugely supportive of his brave choice:

Featured image: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty