Peaceful protest by high school students won’t hurt their admission chances at Iowa universities

Students from City High marched to the Pentacrest during a walk out to protest gun violence and government inaction in the wake of the most recent school shooting in Florida. Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

Iowa’s three public universities have announced that being disciplined for participating in peaceful political protests won’t hurt the chances of high school students applying for admission.

Some school districts around the country have stated that students who take part in walk-outs to protest gun violence and political inaction on school shootings will face disciplinary action. For example, the superintendent of the Houston-area Needville Independent School District in Texas sent a letter to parents on Feb. 20 that warned students taking part in walk-outs to protest gun violence would be suspended. According to the letter from Needville Superintendent Curtis Rhodes:

Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved. All will be suspended for 3 days and parent notes will not alleviate the discipline.

That same day, several colleges and universities in New England and California published statements to reassure high school students that being disciplined for peaceful political protests would not negatively affect their chances for admission.

Iowa State was the first university in Iowa to give students the same assurance. A Feb. 24 post on the Iowa State University Office Admissions Facebook page stated:

A message to Future Cyclones: Iowa State University values the honest and respectful expression of ideas by both its current and prospective students. Disciplinary action associated with peaceful participation in non-violent protests will not affect your admission status.

The University of Iowa tweeted a similar statement the following day, and the day after that, as did the University of Northern Iowa.

Laura Belin of the Iowa political blog, Bleeding Heartland, reached out to more than two dozen private colleges and universities in the state to ask about their policies. Drake University, Upper Iowa University, Morningside College and Coe College in Cedar Rapids all said being disciplined for peaceful political protest would not adversely affect an applicant’s chances.

Grinnell College went further, saying a history of nonviolent protest could actually help an applicant.

“We would never penalize a prospective student for peaceful public protest. Indeed, we reward students in the application process who have used their voices to address important social problems,” Joe Bagnol, Grinnell’s dean of admission and financial aid, said in an email to Belin.

There have been walk-outs and protests at high schools and junior high schools schools in Iowa since the mass shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14. Students in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and North Liberty have participated in walk-outs, but all those actions have had the support of school officials.

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