INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Justice Burris would normally be getting home from school just after 2:30 p.m. Instead, on Monday, the freshman sat on her couch comparing one of her books to a show on television as a way to pass time during her suspension.
"We just want to understand why we are getting such a harsh punishment for something that would be a write-up," she told 41 Action News.
Last Wednesday, students across the country walked out of their schools at 10 a.m. to protest gun violence and remember students killed at Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Hundreds of students at William Chrisman High School joined as well, including Burris and six of her friends. However, their group did not go to the football field, which the school approved.
Instead, Burris and her six friends stood at the flagpole before walking to a hill near Highway 24 and Noland Road. When everyone else went inside after 17 minutes, they remained in place.
"I think it was important to have it led by students because it's supposed to be our time to speak about our opinion about it and to talk about what we really want because this is our generation that is getting impacted from it," she said.
Burris and her six friends each got a five-day suspension.
The Independence School District would not discuss student discipline, citing student privacy rules.
However, district spokesperson Jana Corrie said students were supported in their freedom of expression.
About 700 students at the district's three high schools took part in student-centered activities, she said. Each student was required to have a parent sign a permission slip.
"We did not have any students face discipline for holding signs or taking part in the student walkout last Wednesday between 10 a.m. and 10:17 a.m.," said Corrie. "Students who refused to return to school well beyond the allowed time, left school grounds without permission and who were dismissive and disrespectful to teachers and administrators, would have been disciplined accordingly."