Montgomery County school board considering excused absences for students to take part in protests

- For the past two years, we have seen student walkouts and protests ranging from gun control to the election of President Donald Trump. Now, a Maryland school district is considering to allow its high school students to get excused time off to go rally and demonstrate.

Under the proposal being considered by the Montgomery County School Board, students could get three excused absences for joining in “civic engagement activities.”

A student would need a letter from the group holding the demonstration, a letter of permission from their parent and then they would need the principal’s approval.

School board member Patricia O’Neill is pushing this idea. She rejects any suggestion that this is politically motivated or greenlight students to break the rules.

“We are not rewarding students for skipping school,” said O’Neill. “We want students in class learning, but there is a piece of learning that does occur outside the classroom.”

O'Neill also said the proposal would instruct principals to award these excused absences in a fair and nonpartisan fashion. If one student was given approval for an excused absence to go to an anti-gun rally, another student would have to be given same approval to go to a pro-gun rally.

According to O’Neill, this proposal would also address the issue of liability. The school is currently responsible for a student's safety from the minute they show up to class. If they walk out of school, Montgomery County Public Schools is still responsible for their safety.

O'Neill has sent the proposal to the school board's Policy Management Committee which she chairs. As it stands right now, they will have a 30-day period for the public to weigh in with their comments before any action is taken.

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