For 16-year-old Nick Laurent, walking out of Eden Prairie High School Thursday to protest the school's punishment of students seen partying on Facebook pages was about asking administrators to be fair.
More than a dozen students joined Laurent after learning about the walkout from fliers the junior handed out the day before. The students said school administrators overreacted to the perception that students in the photos were drinking.
"It's the loudest thing we could do," said Laurent, who organized the walkout but said he wasn't one of the students in the photos.
Laurent tried to make his point by passing out red plastic cups that were similar to those seen in some of the photos. He noted that it was impossible to see what was inside the cups, so administrators couldn't prove that students were drinking.
“It's the loudest thing we could do.”Nick Laurent, Eden Prairie High School student protester
Laurent agreed that athletes and other students who sign a code of conduct to be involved in activities should face consequences if they break the rule against drinking alcohol. But he said the punishments were too harsh.
"They don't have (the) support of the students to hand out arbitrary punishments and punishments that don't fit the crime," he said.
Once the photos on the social networking Web site came to the attention of administrators, 42 students were interviewed and 13 face some discipline over the pictures, school officials said.
School officials haven't said how the students were disciplined, but Minnesota State High School League penalties start with a two-game suspension for the first violation. Laurent and other students said they knew of classmates who were banned from their sports teams for five weeks.
Principal Conn McCartan did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the walkout, but students said they expected they'd be punished.
Fourteen-year-old Ali Saley said cutting class for the cause was worth it. She held signs such as, "They walk or we do," in solidarity with the students who were punished. A few cars honked in support of the students as they gathered on a footbridge over the road in front of the school.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)