Student Civic Engagement and Protest
Support of Students’ Rights
The district supports the right of our students to express their views in a peaceful manner, including their constitutional right to peacefully protest. This student right is formally acknowledged in Board Policy 3223, Freedom of Assembly
Over the past few years, our students have exercised this right in numerous visible ways including participation in sit-ins, walkouts, taking a knee at athletic events, and marches. Our role as educators is to provide an environment in which students are supported in the development of their opinions, ideas, and their personal role in our democracy.
Activism and community participation are values held by many Seattle residents, and is a theme that can be found in our city’s past as a source of our community pride. As a school district, we pride ourselves on developing young people who are prepared to make positive contributions not only in Seattle, but across our nation. Seattle Public Schools has educated many of our state’s community and civic leaders including former Governor Locke, current Mayor Murray, and many others.
Protection and respect for student First Amendment rights is foundational to our mission of ensuring that each and every student is prepared for life, college, and career.
Protest and Absences
While we support First Amendment rights, when civic engagement includes missing class (e.g. participation in a walkout), there are standardized consequences. Seattle Public Schools will not attempt to prevent students from protesting or walking out, but we cannot excuse the absence from school. An absence from class to participate in something such as a walkout will not meet the criteria of an excused absence as defined by the State of Washington Administrative Code.
Absences that may be excused are listed below:
- Participation in a district or school approved activity or instructional program;
- Illness, health condition, or medical appointment (including, but not limited to, medical, counseling, dental or optometry) for the student or person for who the student is legally responsible;
- Family emergency including, but not limited to, a death or illness in the family;
- Religious or cultural purpose including observance of a religious or cultural holiday or participation in religious or cultural instruction;
- Court, judicial proceeding, or serving on a jury;
- Post-secondary, technical school or apprenticeship program visitation, or scholarship interview;
- State-recognized search and rescue activities consistent with RCW 28A.225.055;
- Absence directly related to the student's homeless status;
- Absences related to deployment activities of a parent or legal guardian who is an active duty member consistent with RCW 28A.705.010;
- Absence resulting from a disciplinary/corrective action (e.g., short-term or long-term suspension, emergency expulsion); and
- Principal (or designee) and parent, guardian, or emancipated youth mutually agreed upon approved activity.
Students should understand that if they choose to participate in a walkout, their absence will be unexcused pursuant to RCW 28A.300.046 and the district’s associated Superintendent Procedure SP3121. When there is an absence from school, parents/guardians will receive a notice from the individual school.
Making up Missed Work
Following an unexcused absence, students do not have the right to make up schoolwork. The opportunity to make up work will be at the discretion of the principal and classroom teacher. The opportunity to make up work will depend on the course syllabus and other factors.
Student Safety During Protests
Student safety is a top priority. When students leave our campuses, we are no longer able to assure student safety. For this reason, when a school or the district learns about a planned walkout or any instance where groups of students might be departing campus, the district’s Safety and Security Department will work closely with the Seattle Police Department (SPD) so they can monitor the safety of our students as travel away from district property and out of our care. Through this coordinated effort, students have had appropriate supports as they exercise their First Amendment rights.
Additional Information and resources: