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EDITORIAL: Gun-control debate should take place outside of school hours

The Clark County School District wants students looking to participate in the gun-policy debate to do so outside school hours. That’s a wise approach.

February’s tragic shooting at a Florida high school has brought the gun-control debate, once again, to the center of the national dialogue. Fueled by attention from the national media, a handful of students who survived the shooting have led calls for stricter gun control. Organizers of the Women’s March are urging students to walk out of school on March 14 to protest gun violence. A second national walkout is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.

As the Review-Journal’s Amelia Pak-Harvey reported, the district doesn’t condone students leaving class.

“If a student chooses to walk out, they will be ineligible to participate in any athletics or extracurricular activities” for that day, according to a message from Rosanne Richards, a district director of instruction. “It is so important during these times that we talk with our students about how a walkout is not necessary and that we are all working together to optimize school safety.”

Among the most notable concerns is safety. District officials can’t protect students who walk out of class and off school premises. Consider what happened recently in Stockton, Calif. Hundreds of students walked on the pretense of demanding more gun control. Some of the protesters, however, decided to become rioters and throw rocks at cars. Police made five arrests, and charges included battery of an officer.

It’s also important to have a clear standard that the school day is for school. There will always be causes worth protesting to someone — whether it’s repealing Obamacare, climate change or sanctuary cities. Without a bright-line standard, students would soon realize that missing class to protest the cause du jour sounds a lot better than playing hooky to get out of English class.

And it should go without saying that, given the district’s academic track record, students need every hour of instructional time they can get.

These guidelines don’t prevent students from getting involved in the political process. Protests could still be conducted before or after classroom hours. Such demonstrations would generate the same amount of media attention without disrupting limited learning time.

It would be a political football for the Clark County School District to pick and choose which political protests are worthy of an exception to its attendance policy. Students have every right to make their voices heard. But telling them to protest outside school hours is the right decision.

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