Cutting class for a protest: a real-world lesson

More than 400 FWISD students gathered to protest the ending of the DACA program on Wednesday.
More than 400 FWISD students gathered to protest the ending of the DACA program on Wednesday. jlmarshall@star-telegram

Opponents of President Donald Trump are quick to criticize him for a litany of flawed policy decisions, but they seldom credit him for one very important phenomenon: the rise in political activism.

His election has galvanized people on both sides of the aisle — those who were previously politically agnostic, the old and most especially the young.

North Texas got a sense of how just how politically engaged some youth are when a group of more than 400 students marched in downtown Fort Worth in response to Trump’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the Obama-era program that provides temporary legal status to certain immigrants unlawfully brought to the U.S. as children and shields them from possible deportation.

The students carried signs and chanted their support for DACA.

The protest, which lasted about two hours and ended at the Tarrant County Courthouse, was the second immigration-related walkout organized by FWISD students this school year, which has lasted as many weeks.

And it is indicative of just how politically active young people have become.

On the whole, that’s a good thing.

Political activism can get ugly, as we’ve seen in Charlottesville and Arlington, Va., and Berkeley, Calif. But by and large, political protests are peaceful events, attended by people of goodwill who want to make their voices heard.

They can provide also real-life lessons about democracy and freedom for those who attend them.

If you’re cutting school to attend one such event, it can provide real-life consequences, too, like missing important lessons or exams, or facing the disciplinary repercussions of skipping class.

The district must remain neutral, of course, not allowing special treatment — positively or negatively — for Wednesday’s protest. And it appears that is exactly what it has done.

FWISD students were encouraged to stay in class, but understanding, as Superintendent Kent Scribner explained Wednesday, “our students’ passion to have their voices be heard,” the district also had teachers and administrators present at the rally to ensure student safety.

We understand that passion, too. Some of the students are affected personally by DACA’s rescission, and a peaceful protest is one meaningful avenue to express that frustration.

While we encourage peaceful political engagement, we also discourage truancy.

Still, the decision is up to the students, and they seem willing to accept the consequences.

But maybe next time they could consider protesting after school.