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Why can’t Georgia Tech and UGA join other colleges and stand up for student walkout?

I am getting worried emails from parents of high school seniors, especially from the academic powerhouse Walton High School in Cobb County, about possible consequences kids might face from prospective colleges if they participate in the March 14 national school walkout to protest school shootings. 

More than a thousand Walton students have signed up to walk out, despite discouragement  from the administration, according to a Cobb student organizer. 

Some systems, nost notably DeKalb and Marietta, are openly supporting students in their effort to stop school shootings, but Cobb and Fulton have sent mixed messages, frustrating both students and parents.

More than 300 colleges, including Emory, Agnes Scott, Duke, Yale, MIT, and the University of Virginia, have assured applicants they respect their social activism and will not penalize them for any disciplinary actions that may result from participating in the walkout. (Colleges require students to notify them of any disciplinary actions and the schools retain the right to rescind an admission offer.)

Yet, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech have been silent. 

Students in districts that are opposing the walkout have told me their principals have suggested a suspension as result of participating in the walkout could hurt their admission chances, which I believe is an empty threat. 

I don’t think any elite school will hold that against students, as indicated by the long list of schools that have made strong public statements of support.

But I wish UGA and Georgia Tech would offer reassurance.

As a parent of a student who plans to participate in the walkout told me: “What's curious to me is that she has heard from all of the schools that she's applied to that they respect students' decision to engage in peaceful protest and they will not rescind the offer of admission to students (or cause it to factor into a pending admission decision) because they engage in peaceful protest with two exceptions --UGA and Georgia Tech.’’

I asked both campuses for their positions and was told a statement would have to come from the agency that oversees public colleges, the University System of Georgia. 

All University System of Georgia spokesman Charles Sutlive said: “Our institutions’ admissions offices already have policies in place for considering disciplinary records; therefore, no additional policy or statement is necessary.” 

That is not a response. It’s a dodge. 

And a disservice to students who are trying to solve a deadly problem that adults refuse to address. 

Why can’t Georgia stand up for its young people as other states are doing? 

For kids who have grown up with active shooter and Code Red drills, this is a battle for their lives. And the adults, who created the unsafe and dangerous conditions, won’t stand by them?

If the University System of Georgia wants to know what clear support for students looks like, here are some examples, including from public campuses: 

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.