As political protests have become more frequent in high schools across the country, one local school district in Maryland is considering granting students excused absences for attending protests according to the Washington Post.
The revamped proposal would allow public high school students to take as many as three excused absences a year to participate in political protests and other forms of “civic engagement” during the school day.
Excluded from the excused absence policy are spontaneous walkouts like those that took place at schools across the country after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in February.
According to the Post, the goal of the policy is to ensure students and employees “are well informed and guided in their activities regarding the requirements of state election laws and their participation in civic engagement activities, political campaigns, partisan election activities, and distribution of political or partisan materials.”
The Post quoted Patricia O’Neill, a longtime member of the school board who told that paper that the policy reflects the atmosphere of intense student engagement in political issues, especially during the past year and said that it was important that students not be penalized for their civic engagement.
“We want students to be prepared to be active citizens and be the next generation of leaders and learning,” O’Neill said. “Public education was established to prepare the next generation of citizens in this country, and learning doesn’t just occur in the classroom, it occurs in life experiences.”
The current policy doesn’t allow for excused absences for participating in these types of activities, but schools have been loath to penalize students for taking part in protests and risk alienating parents and schoolteachers.