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Student suspended after protests on backpack ban

High school students can find themselves caught between being an adult and being a teenager in school. Finding ways to express themselves and take ownership of their beliefs can therefore be a struggle within the context of school. And in some cases, their efforts result in unfortunate penalties.

Recently, for instance, a student made international headlines when he protested his school's ban on backpacks by carrying his books in items like a microwave and a saucepan. The school suspended him because of his behavior, which invites the question of how can students engage in peaceful protests without it damaging their academic future?

Taking issue with the rules

Schools sometimes make rules that students don't understand or don't agree with. Often, these rules come in response to a specific incident or trend. For instance, the ban on backpacks the student was protesting came after reports that a teacher and some younger students got hurt by the heavy, large backpacks older students were carrying.

And here in Florida, some schools banned backpacks or required them to be clear in the wake of the tragic Parkland shooting to make it more difficult for students to carry in firearms.

As well-intentioned as these efforts may be, they can still invite criticism. As such, students may find themselves in a position to protest similar decisions.

Tips for protesting

In cases where a student does decide to protest a school policy or decision, there are some ways to do so without facing unnecessary penalties. 

First, review the school's policy on protesting. Often, these policies will specify certain prohibited actions or behaviors. And there are laws that protect student's right to free speech as long as it doesn't disrupt school. Understand, too, that the rules and protections are different for private schools versus public schools.

Students might also consider working with teachers and administrators in their efforts. Often, these parties can offer guidance or provide more power behind the protests.

Finally, it can be wise to meet with school officials to discuss the rule in question as well as the actions taken against anyone who protests. Doing this sooner rather than later, and with a legal representative, can ensure a protest does not spiral into rights' violations and unnecessary penalties.

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