National Walkout Day was planned to send a political message to lawmakers in Washington D.C. as students from schools across the nation walked out of their school classrooms to memorialize those students who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
As USA Today reports, “Across the country Wednesday, thousands of students walked out of their schools on what is now known as National Walkout Day.”
CNN adds, “In an unprecedented show of unity dubbed National Walkout Day, students put down their books and left class at 10 a.m. in each time zone for at least 17 minutes — one for each person killed at the Florida school.”
At least one student in Ohio, who refused to participate in the protest, is being penalized by his school.
Jacob Shoemaker, a senior at Hilliard Davidson High School in Hilliard, said he did not wish to take a side in the gun-control debate.
Fox News reports, “If he went outside for the walkout, he said, he would be supporting gun control. If he stayed in the common area of the school, he said, he would be seen as supporting gun violence and disrespecting the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Fla. High school shooting the month before.”
Shoemaker decided his best choice of action would be to remain in the classroom, where a student would otherwise be if it were not for the protests.
From Fox News:
Jacob had met with the school’s principal on Tuesday, a day before the rally, for about an hour to find out what exactly the walkout was supporting. But he said the principal reportedly told him it was for the “students to express themselves.”
This left Jacob wondering if it was a memorial for the lives lost or a show of support for gun control.
He decided, instead, to stay in class for about 20 minutes doing homework after his teacher and fellow classmates left and locked the door.
When they returned, he was slapped with a suspension.
As Washington Post clarifies, he was not penalized specifically for not participating in the protests, but for not leaving the classroom and heading to the non-participants area.
From the report:
Shoemaker… was in fact suspended. But not because he chose not to join his classmates and the hundreds of thousands of students across the country who walked out of their classrooms to protest gun violence in the wake of a Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead. It was because he didn’t go to a designated area of the school where the non-protesters were supposed to be, and instead stayed by himself in a classroom.
He stayed in the classroom, his father said, because he didn’t want to choose a side.
“He was uncomfortable going to either location as he thought that going outside would most likely be politicizing a horrific event which he wanted no part of,” his father, Scott Shoemaker, wrote in a Facebook post on Friday. “But staying inside would make him look disrespectful or insensitive to 17 innocent victims if it turned out to be more of a memorial service.”
“Politics [doesn’t] belong in the school,” Scott Shoemaker said, per Fox News. “Students shouldn’t be pressured into taking a side.”
The Shoemaker family said they received insults and death threats as a result of Jacob’s decision to remain neutral in the debate:
The story went viral after Jacob sent a photo of his out-of-school suspension citation to one of his friends, who posted it on social media.
The school, as well as the Shoemakers, have received death threats and hate messages.
Scott Shoemaker said his son was just trying to be introspective – and he wasn’t acting out.
“He didn’t do anything to deserve this,” he said. “He didn’t ask for this.”
Jacob said although he was penalized for his actions, he was not the only one refusing to participate in the walkout. As Washington Post reports, most of the students refused to participate:
On the night before his school’s walkout, Shoemaker told his father that he wasn’t sure about participating in the walkout, and that school officials were, in some respects, pressuring the students to pick a side.
“The biggest problem, Dad, is that there shouldn’t be politics in the classroom … I may just sit in my seat. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the least intrusive of the choices I’ve been given,” he told his father, according to the Independent.
Shoemaker added that he wasn’t the only student who felt this way. School district officials said that “well under” half of the student population participated in the walkout — but that the majority of students were “comfortable and confident” in their decision not to participate.