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High school students Mia Arrington, center, 18, and Cheyenne Springette, right, 17, lead chants Wednesday as they march down Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh during a walkout in solidarity with other high school students protesting gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., shootings. 

NORMAL — Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan universities are among at least 50 universities nationwide that have put the word out to prospective students that their admissions will not be jeopardized if their high school disciplines them for engaging in peaceful protests.

The policy announcements, made mostly via social media, come as students are being called to engage in national walkouts in March to protest gun violence in schools.

The first scheduled walkout is March 14, when students are being asked to leave their schools at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. It is being organized by the people behind the Women's March.

The superintendents at Bloomington District 87 and McLean County Unit 5 said conversations are going on among students, teachers and administrators and they do not anticipate the need for discipline to be imposed.

However, school officials in many parts of the country have told students they will be disciplined if they participate in a walkout.

That prompted universities from coast to coast to say such discipline would not affect admissions decisions.

ISU said in a tweet on Saturday, “Illinois State University would like to assure high school students that disciplinary action associated with their participation in peaceful protests will not impact their admission to the university in any way.”

IWU posted a similar message on its Facebook page for admitted students on Saturday and tweeted on Monday, “If you participate in a peaceful protest against gun violence and are disciplined by your school, we will not penalize you in the Illinois Wesleyan admissions process.”

Greg King, IWU's associate vice president for enrollment management, said Monday, “We recognize there are a lot of students that are feeling the need to peacefully demonstrate and made sure their voices are heard.”

The school wanted to ease the concerns of prospective students by letting them know their admission would not be affected if they were disciplined for participating in a peaceful protest, said King.

Jeff Mavros, ISU director of admissions, said administrators got together and decided to post the message after “we were starting to see … a national conversation about this topic and fielded a couple of inquiries ourselves” about the impact a suspension or other discipline might have.

“We always want students to be engaged in the community,” said Mavros.

District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said, “We're trying to look at this as an educational moment for our students.”

Bloomington High School Principal Tim Moore has met with six or seven student groups talking about what might be done that day, said Reilly.

“I'm very confident they will come up with something that really does serve a purpose and addresses students' concerns,” he said. “I don't anticipate discipline given the good conversations going on between students and administrators.”

Similar conversations are going on in Normal-based Unit 5, said Superintendent Mark Daniel.

He said the district doesn't want to “penalize students for expressing opinions about something so impactful that's really striking a chord: safety in our schools, safety in our country.”

The conversations are centered around how students can express themselves in a way that's orderly and ensures their message can be heard, said Daniel.

Reilly said the focus is on the impact of relationships between students and teachers and between students and students, “seeing what they can do to make all kids feel connected with the school.”

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter @Pg_Sobota


Education Reporter

Education Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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