ROCKLIN (CBS13) — A Rocklin High School teacher is on paid administrative leave over her views about the national school walk out. The teacher says all she did was open up a debate about the politics of the protest in her classroom.
Mrs. Benzel teaches history at Rocklin High School.
She says it was only appropriate to talk to her class about the politics of organized protests, ahead of the school walkout.
But she says the school disagreed with her views and told her to stay home Wednesday morning.
“We had a dialogue in class about it in Thursday and Friday. And today I received the call. So I am aghast,” said Julianne Benzel.
Benzel says she never discouraged her students from participating in the national school walk out, but she did question whether it’s appropriate for a school to support a protest against gun violence if they’re not willing to support all protests.
“And so I just kind of used the example which I know it’s really controversial, but I know it was the best example I thought of at the time—a group of students nationwide, or even locally, decided ‘I want to walk out of school for 17 minutes’ and go in the quad area and protest abortion, would that be allowed by our administration?” she said.
She says the administration didn’t talk to her about her lecture, last week.
But while thousands of students walked out of class, Mrs. Benzel received a letter from her human resources department, informing her she’s being placed on paid administrative leave.
“I didn’t get any backlash from my students. All my students totally understood that there could not be a double standard,” she said.
Including Nick Wade, who didn’t walk out.
“I feel like if we were to go to school and say something like I want to walk out maybe for abortion rights, then you know they probably wouldn’t let us because that’s more of a conservative push. But someone wants to say let’s walk out for gun control then the school’s going to go with it because it’s more of a popular view,” said Wade.
The Rocklin School District won’t say whether his teacher is in trouble, because of that classroom debate.
A spokeswoman provided a statement reading in part:
“A Rocklin High School teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave due to several complaints from parents and students involving the teacher’s communications regarding today’s student-led civic engagement activities.”
For now, Benzel hopes the national student walkout prompts a bigger conversation, not just about second amendment gun rights, but first amendment free speech.
“If you’re going to allow students to walk up and get out of class without penalty then you have to allow any group of students that wants to protest,” she said.
Benzel says she has retained legal counsel and plans to sit down with school administrators, Thursday morning.