This story was updated on April 10, 10:15 a.m. (CNSNews.com) -- The Rocklin Unified School District in California where Rocklin High School student Brandon Gillespie has organized a pro-life walkout for April 11, said it would not officially sanction the event because it does not meet the school's criteria for special events and "is not viewpoint neutral," unlike the March 14 National School Walkout, which it said was a "remembrance activity" and "was considered viewpoint neutral."
However, the Rocklin school district also said, in a statement, that students who participate in #prolifewalkout on Wednesday would not face "disciplinary consequences," as long as they followed school rules.
Back on March 14, the youth arm of the Women's March organized a nationwide walkout at schools to remember the students and teachers killed on Feb. 14 at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. by shooter Nikolas Cruz. The #NationalSchoolWalkout was designed to remember the victims for 17 minutes. But it was also orchestrated, as the group states, "to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship."
The #NationalSchoolWalkout also issued demands that included banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and expanding background checks on to all gun sales. The organizers also opposed concealed carry reciprocity (allowing people to carry guns in any state). The walkout was very popular, with about 3,000 schools and 1 million students participating in the event.
Brandon Gillespie, 17, organized the pro-life walkout, he told CBS 13 Sacramento, "To honor all the lives of aborted babies pretty much. All the millions of aborted babies every year." He also made it clear that he wanted to see if the school would be fair: It allowed the anti-gun walkout, so would it allow the pro-life walkout?
"I would like to see if there really is a double standard and what will come of that," said Gillespie.
The website for the April 11 walkout, which takes place at 10AM (in all timezones), states that student participants "will walk out of our classes for 17 minutes of silence and prayer. We will stand silently outside honoring the 10 children who will violently die during that time at a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. We will rally and demand the end of Planned Parenthood's taxpayer funded empire. We will kneel and pray for the end of legal abortion in our nation."
The website lists dozens of high schools and colleges where students reportedly will participate in the walkout.
CNSNews.com asked the Rocklin Unified School District if the students at its schools had permission to join in the pro-life walkout. In a statement from the chief of Commications and Community Engagement, Diana Capra, the district said, "Several students at Rocklin High School have requested permission to conduct a pro-life walkout and to receive the same accommodations as those given to students who participated in the remembrance activity on March 14th. Rocklin High School approved the March 14th event since it was organized as a remembrance activity which was considered viewpoint neutral, and it was a show of unity for students as part of a national conversation concerning school safety. This met the school district’s policy for assemblies and special events."
"The request to hold a pro-life walkout during instructional time does not fall under the school district's policy for assemblies and special events as it is not related to school and is not viewpoint neutral," said the district. "However, if students choose to engage in a protest or a walk out they will be allowed to do so without disciplinary consequences, as long as they conduct themselves according to school rules."
The district further said, "Background: School officials have a duty to ensure a safe and conducive learning environment for all students. On March 14th, thousands of students across the nation participated in the National School Walkout, a planned protest that called for students to walk out of their classrooms at 10 am in response to Congress' inaction to do anything about gun violence occurring in schools.
"Rocklin High School students instead chose to organize a remembrance activity for the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida school shooting by assembling for 17 minutes in the high school's amphitheatre."
Students for Life of America (SFLA), which is helping to organize the pro-life walkout, said in an April 10 statement that the event "has gotten a slow walk from administrators," yet "still, more than 350 students and student group leaders from across the country have contacted Students for Life about their plans to stand with pregnant and parenting students on April 11."
“The Pro-life Generation has every right to exercise their free speech rights in defense of pregnant and parenting students,” said SFLA President Kristan Hawkins. “But we have found that some administrations have not embraced students who care about lives lost to abortion as they did students who cared about lives lost to gun violence. But you can’t open the door to one group of students and close it to another. Abortion has taken the lives of one-fourth of this generation, and we will remember those we’ve lost on Wednesday.”
Gillespie said that the Rocklin High School authorities delayed their decision on the walkout until essentially the last minute.
“They are not giving me any accommodation at all, except for the district policy of not punishing students for protesting," he said. "That is not the accommodation that I asked for; I asked for the same accommodation as the anti-gun protest, that teachers would be flexible in their lesson planning, and also for the availability of equipment that the anti-gun protestors were allowed to use."
"I really was not surprised when they told me that they were not going to give me the accommodations and that they were not going to sanction this walkout as they did the previous one," said Gillespie.
"It just confirms for me that there is a political double standard, at least in my school district, but I’m still going to be out there," he said.
Life Legal Executive Director Alexandra Snyder said, "This is a blatant case of content discrimination and arbitrary favoritism. Rocklin High School’s decision treats the Pro-life Walkout differently than the way the school treated the gun walkout, which violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection rights of every student participating in the Pro-life walkout."
"Life Legal is proud to fight for Brandon Gillespie’s rights to be treated the same as other students and to speak up for the nearly one quarter of his generation that will die from the scourge of abortion," said Snyder.