Superintendent Curtis Rhodes issued a threat Tuesday that any student in his Texas school district who attempted to demonstrate or engage in any sort of protest during school hours would be punished:
Please be advised that the Needville ISD will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness!! [sic] Should students choose to do so, they will be suspended from school for 3 days and face all the consequences that come along with an out of school suspension. 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 and parent notes will not alleviate the discipline.
There's a particular absurdity that only comes from a government bureaucracy that the punishment for not attending classes you have been ordered to attend is to be forbidden from attending the classes you've been ordered to attend.
Like many school officials, Rhodes wants blind obedience. He ironically declares in his message that schools are a place to "grow educationally, emotionally, and morally." Now shut up, sit down, and do what we tell you to do! He ends his letter with "we are here for an education and not a political protest" as though these were contradictory aims.
The Washington Post picked up the story and notes the Tinker Supreme Court decision that acknowledges that students have First Amendment rights to express their political opinion. Rhodes can prohibit and punish students for disruptive demonstrations that interfere with teaching of classes, but a blanket order that there cannot be any sort of demonstration during school hours at all seems like an obvious attempt to prohibit the expression of political opinions.
Rhodes has previously been in trouble before for attempting to enforce a dress code that banned a Native American student from having long hair. He was overruled by the courts as having intruded on the child's freedom of religious expression. During the case, Rhodes made it abundantly clear that he saw the role of the school system is to instill obedience into children. Via the Houston Press in 2008:
"I've never had a hair past my ears. I'm pretty much a rule follower. I'm not out to, just because there's a rule I got to try to break it. I wasn't raised that way, I wasn't genetically put together that way. If they say do this, I'm going to do it."
If high school students don't perhaps have the most thoroughly thought-out responses to mass shootings and other controversial issues, some school administrators seem to be suffering from the same problem.