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A New Era?

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Posted in:  
Legal
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April 2, 2018

From what I’ve seen in the news and on social media, it would appear we’re entering a new era—or perhaps repeating a bygone era—in our country where walkouts, protests and strikes are becoming popular methods of choice for those wishing to be heard regarding various issues. We’ve witnessed demonstrations by West Virginia and Kentucky teachers, as well as those involving women’s groups and students all over the country. Oklahoma now sees its own teachers following suit. Moving forward, advocacy by mass, unified action may be the new normal.

My daughter’s school sent out an email in advance of the national student walkout last month stating that on the chosen day at a designated time, students would be allowed—but not required—to take a silent walk around campus in honor of the Florida school shooting victims. It wasn’t until the email came through that I realized there was a national school walkout planned for the same day. To me, the school staging it as a student tribute to those who died, rather than as a means of political protest, was brilliant.  My daughter chose to participate, and told me that there were some who did not. She said it went smoothly for all. Hopefully it did at your schools as well.

If there are more of these types of events to come, how will your school choose to handle them? Can you think of ways to encourage and foster civil debate among students and teachers leading up to any such planned activities? It’s a good idea to be out in front of this before it happens again. Plan ahead as best you can for varying types of student advocacy events (protest versus support, divisive versus unified, leaving school versus staying on campus, etc.), and once your plans are formulated, communicate each of those plans clearly to students, staff, school board and the public. This will ensure everyone knows the district’s expectations for the orderly and peaceful conduct of any future advocacy demonstrations.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

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Terri Thomas

Director of Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC.  Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS) from 1999 to 2015 and represents many school districts throughout all parts of the state.

It’s no accident that Terri wound up practicing school law.  She grew up in the school business. Terri’s father, the late Howard Thomas, was a school superintendent for 25 years in several Oklahoma school districts, including Pauls Valley—Terri’s hometown—and Ardmore. After graduating from Pauls Valley High School, Terri received her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

She and her husband, Norman Thompson, and their 8-year old daughter, Mary, reside in Oklahoma City.

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