Cobb gives students in walkout in-school suspension


Some Cobb County students will spend a day serving an in-school suspension as punishment for walking out last week.

Thousands of students across metro Atlanta joined students around the country in walking out of school March 14 to protest gun violence after 17 people were killed in a Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

At Pope High School, walkout organizer Lian Kleinman estimated 170 of the roughly 200 students who walked out received one day of in-school suspension. Lian, a junior, said the students are scheduled to serve their suspensions Monday in the theater, a space big enough to accommodate everyone.

“Our walkout was in no way disruptive. We were quiet walking through the school and peaceful and respectful throughout the entire event. We missed 17 minutes of school and as a punishment for that we are going to be missing 7 hours of school,” Lian said, in an email.

Some students did not receive a punishment, she thinks because their names weren’t written down when they re-entered the school.

Unlike Atlanta, Clayton, and DeKalb — school districts that permitted peaceful walkouts — Cobb took a strict stance. Before the demonstration, the district cited safety as a top priority and said students who “disrupt the normal operation of a school may be subject to consequences in accordance with the student code of conduct.”

Rumors about what the punishment would be had ranged from being barred from prom to out-of-school suspensions.

On March 14, some Cobb students reported tactics such as teachers standing in front of exit doors that they said discouraged students from walking out.

District spokesman John Stafford confirmed Wednesday that schools were “in the process of administering appropriate consequences to students who violated the Student Code of Conduct,” but he declined to answer questions.

Gwinnett County Public Schools warned students of consequences if they violated school policy on tardiness and unexcused absences, but virtually all disciplinary actions taken were what administrators call “level one.”Whether that was an administrative conference or something more punitive depended on that student’s individual record, said Associate Superintendent Steve Flynt.

“If it was their first offense, there may have been nothing more than a tardy mark on their attendance record,” he said.

The only incident that disrupted learning was a student pulling a fire alarm at Berkmar High School. That falls into a different category, said Flynt.

Flynt said there have been no complaints from parents. A group of lawyers that encouraged students to report civil rights violations said they didn’t receive any calls from Gwinnett County.

The Cobb County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which has supported students who walked out, is collecting and reviewing information from parents who want to challenge the Cobb disciplinary decisions.

Students and parents at Wheeler and North Cobb high schools reported that students who demonstrated received a one-day, in-school suspension. A Walton High School walkout organizer said Wednesday participants had yet to hear about discipline.

John and Susan McCullough said their son, a North Cobb senior, is scheduled to serve a one day in-school suspension today. He joined other students in a sit-in in a hallway. The penalty means the McCulloughs’ son will miss his Advanced Placement physics and AP macroeconomics classes.

Cobb rules state that students serving in-school suspensions will be isolated in a separate space and receive academic assignments that align with their current classroom instruction. 

“I am just really wondering what the lesson is supposed to be if the goal is student success,” Susan McCullough said.

Lian said Pope students will wear orange on the day of their punishment — the color associated with activists against gun violence — and sport the “Not One More” pins they donned during during the walkout. They also plan to write letters to their elected representatives.

“We rightfully earned this punishment and plan to make the most of it,” Lian said.

Requests to interview Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale have not been granted.

-- Staff writer Arlinda Smith Broady contributed to this article.

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