The other side of the coin


Photo credit: Rachel Malinowski

By Michal Ruprecht, Senior Assistant Editor

While thousands of students walked out Wednesday, March 14 across the nation, a number of others opted not to participate in the walkout, a theme that was evident at North. But if I had gone to another school, I wouldn’t have known that there was a group of students not taking part in the walkout.

On Wednesday, March 8, the superintendent of the Grosse Pointe Public Schools System Gary Niehaus announced in an email to students that there would be a district-wide “walkout” at the middle school and high school levels. This “walkout” was held on the same day as the #ENOUGH National School Walkout, which was hosted by the Women’s March.

Niehaus said the “walkout” would be apolitical, and at the high school level it would be student-initiated and led. North Pointe, for which I was an editor-at-large and am now a senior assistant editor as our new leaders move into their roles, published an editorial addressing the issue. The majority of The Editorial Board said they would not walk out and that the district robbed students of their freedom of speech and right to protest and didn’t promote a discussion on gun control or other issues. I agree that First Amendment rights for student journalists and other students are important.

During the “walkout,” I chose to take an approach that differed from mainstream media coverage.”

During the “walkout,” I chose to take an approach that differed from mainstream media coverage. On my Twitter account, I covered the students who didn’t walk out. It appears that at least 40 percent didn’t participate, either opting to stay in the building or not attending school that hour at all. As a publication, my colleagues and I covered all sides of the event: the supporters and those against the “walkout.”

After the editorial was published, the Detroit News wrote a story on Tuesday, March 13, and quoted two members of the Editorial Board and Niehaus. Niehaus said members of Editorial Board are “outliers” and that he gave “those associations a chance to voice their dissent.”

FOX 2 Detroit reported on the issue March 14, quoting other members of the Editorial Board and Niehaus, again. Niehaus said he wanted to keep the “walkout” apolitical.

After viewing Niehaus’ comments in the Detroit News article, I contacted the GPPSS School Board and asked them to take action and find a solution to the one-sidedness of the “walkout.” Brian Summerfield, the president of the board, responded (other members responded, too, but the GPPSS Board speaks through Board policy and the president). Summerfield gave me a reason for why they organized the “walkout” and its intended purpose. He also said he gave all students and staff the opportunity to voice their views on the “walkout” at the March 12 board meeting.

After emailing the board, I wasn’t given a direct solution to where students could express differing viewpoints in school, so I decided to offer one. With the help of Young Americans for Freedom National Chairman and alumnus Grant Strobl, who announced an initiative to promote conservative ideas, I voiced my opinion.

I believe that the act of a walkout comprised of ideas from the Women’s March. According to Strobl, “the act of the walkout is inherently expressive of a viewpoint and is obviously connected — if not de jure, then de facto” — with liberal ideas even though the district claimed otherwise. I also believe that the district didn’t give all students the opportunity to voice their opinions during the event.

After the “walkout,” it was evident that only one side of the issue was being presented. The event, similar to the others across the nation, only represented one side of the argument.

I don’t believe my district is to blame, though.

I don’t believe my district is to blame, though. GPPSS and my school administration, including the principal Kate Murray, have been very supportive of student speech. I believe this is a larger problem — a national problem with others to blame, not our district.

I blame this problem of one-sidedness on the ideas mainstream media promotes, which a majority of the time only covers one side of the issue. Even though CNN “covered” some students that chose not to walk out, coverage on students supporting the walkout overshadowed it and the reporters only interviewed two students, both male.

According to a Washington Post article, Indiana University professors Write Lars Wilnat and David Weaver found in 2013, only 7.1 percent of American journalists identified themselves as Republicans, while 28.1 percent identified as Democrats.

There has been a growing number of journalists who identify as Independents, but in many newsrooms, Democrats outnumber Republicans. Journalists are meant to remain objective, but it’s impossible to eliminate all bias. This clearly gives Democrats the upper hand in mainstream media coverage, and it’s affected how the members of the public, especially students, view political issues.

This imbalance, in effect, silences many conservative students like me across the country. Although I hope my district and administration support my speaking out and sharing my perspectives, it was still difficult for me to write this. I and other students have stayed quiet because mainstream media has categorically labeled any conservative idea as racist and narrow-minded.

The issue has arisen because people attack people instead of ideas.”

All students are more similar than we believe. The issue has arisen because people attack people instead of ideas, which late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia emphasized. Some of the ways ideas were presented by the Women’s March organizers during the National School Walkout were inappropriate.

Dirty language attacking our representatives and senators won’t get anything done.

I have honored and prayed for all the victims from the shooting in Parkland, Florida, and I understand the anger, but we’re humans and Americans. We, both sides, should act civilly.

We, both sides, should act civilly.”

However, as students, I don’t believe we’ve yet been fairly prepared for civil discussion. Instead of immediately dismissing someone of a different political view, we should listen to each other. This starts with educating students about both sides, and I hope my district as well as others will honor this request. Then, once students understand both viewpoints, this discussion becomes possible.

We can’t go down this path anymore, so let’s forge a new discussion — one with room for students on both sides to have equal opportunity for sharing ideas and mutual respect for one another.