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An Unexcused Walkout

With protest in the St. Louis area concerning the Jason Stockley acquittal KHS students plan their own walkout

Richard Pfeifer

Richard Pfeifer

Sha'diya Tomlin, leader of the walkout, raises her fist in the air. The walkout is in response to the Jason Stockley verdict that rocked the St. Louis area on Friday.

Richard Pfeifer, Kirkwood High School

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News of a student-led walkout appeared in Kirkwood High School students’ Instagram and Snapchat feeds late Friday night. The proposed walkout is in protest of the Jason Stockley acquittal Sept. 15. Aysha McHaynes, a leader of the walkout, has been involved with social justice issues in Kirkwood before with the Ferguson walkout of 2014. Now she is co-planning a walkout, but unlike the 2014 protest it will not have the cushion of an abstinent attendance policy. According to the 2017 KHS attendance policy, after five unexcused absences the student will be automatically dropped from the class they have the absences in.

“I see [an unexcused absence] as a threat,” McHaynes said. “I hope that [Principal Michael Havener] understands that it’s not going to stop the movement. Where would we be today without people who are willing to do what needs to be done with consequences?”

According to a 2014 TKC article, Havener said that in 2014 the students participating in the protest “would not receive any punishment for leaving class.” Now, Havener’s official email to parents, addressing the 2017 walkout, said students will be expected to be at class on time or face the consequences.

“Teachers will take attendance and if a student chooses to attend the peaceful protest it would be marked as an unexcused absence, and would fall under the attendance policies and procedures at KHS,” Havener’s email said. “As with any absence, any work that is missed will be the student’s responsibility to contact the teacher and make up the work.”

During the 2014 walkout, students were marked as absent. While the consequence of an unexcused absence now exaggerated by the KHS 2017 attendance policy, Havener sees the decision as proper.

“While you want to allow the opportunity for the First Amendment, we are also a school building,” Havener said. “The students have the right to do this, but they also need to take on the responsibilities that go along with it. There’s multiple [days you can miss unexcused before the class is automatically dropped] students just need to understand that this will go one day towards that.”

While some students like McHaynes see the unexcused absence as a threat, others such as Jimmy Winkelhoch, freshman, see it as an appropriate consequence for those participating.

“They’re pretty much skipping class,” Winkelhoch said. “They’re protesting something that shouldn’t [have] even been brought into the school in the first place.”

According to the Instagram post, the protest will begin by 7:40 a.m. in the Senior Hall and will proceed to the football field. McHaynes’s hopes of a positive impact on KHS students are high as the countdown to the walkout begins to dwindle.

“I want every student in our school to feel like they matter,” McHaynes said. “If they come to school, they know somewhere in that building there is someone who cares about them, someone who is here for their struggle. Whether that is race, religion, sexual orientation, suicidal thoughts, whatever. I want everyone to have that place. And right now, black students don’t have that place. It’s bad enough not to have a that place in the world, but who wants to come to school and feel that way too?”

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