Maverick Stow, 17, was notified by the school district of his suspension through June 30, 2021 – including events like senior prom and graduation – for “insubordination,” after he was arrested for trespassing on September 10.
Under the “hybrid” learning plan ordered by the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo, the William Floyd High School in Brookhaven allowed its 3,000 or so students to physically attend classes for two days a week, but alternating between groups A and B.
Stow, who was in Group B, decided to show up in person on a Group-A-designated day, and again the day after. He was then arrested by Suffolk County Police.
After Stow took his case to the media, the school district confirmed the year-long suspension, citing its “zero tolerance” policy for “unauthorized people trying to enter our buildings to disrupt the educational process and/or to potentially cause an unsafe environment for our students and staff.”
The school district accused Stow of “irresponsible and selfish behavior” and “flagrantly” breaking the law, blaming him for “repeated insubordination and disruption despite being given multiple opportunities to avoid suspension.” They also threatened to ban all students from attending classes in person “for the foreseeable future” if Stow continued to show up.
This had the effect of mobilizing students against their aptly-named peer, with over 2,100 denouncing Stow for an “egotistical spectacle does not get to speak for what student activism looks like at William Floyd.”
“We do not believe that we should be deprived of our two days of in-person learning because of the actions of a single student,” said the Change.org petition started by fellow student Emilia Brandimarte, adding that “we refuse to put the health and safety of our loved ones at risk to make an idiotic mockery of student activism.”
In the face of this backlash, Maverick Stow announced he would continue to advocate for “in person learning 5 days a week as well as extracurricular activities and sports,” but would relocate his peaceful protests outside the school grounds, according to WABC-TV.
Freedom of speech and peaceful assembly is his constitutional right and “should not be contested or squelched,” Stow told reporters.
Schools across the US closed down in March, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The initial shutdown was supposed to last two weeks, but stretched indefinitely. Some districts switched to online classes, while others rejected the method as discriminatory to students without internet access.
The battle became political as September approached, with President Donald Trump insisting the schools must reopen and teachers’ unions opposing him, backed by Democrats. Some states have since reopened schools in a limited manner, such as New York’s hybrid model that Maverick Stow is protesting against.
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