Choices: Is it OK to allow children to break some rules?

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Is it ever OK to allow children to break the rules? If so, under what circumstances, and does it send a bad message, blurring the lines between right and wrong?

Teenagers across the country recently walked out of school to take a stand against gun violence and to honor the 17 students killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Some of the kids who participated in the March 14 national school walkout had permission from their schools to walk out of class. Others, including those in Beaufort County, walked out despite being told there would be consequences.

And some of the students who walked out against the school's wishes were given the blessings of their parents.

A senior at Bluffton High School, Walter Wheeler chose to walk out. He knew there would be consequences but decided the possible benefits outweighed the risks.

"I think it's a problem when we as teenagers will tell teachers about something or someone ... and then nothing is done because we're not taken seriously," Walter said.

Walter's mother, Anita Wheeler, couldn't be prouder of her son for standing up for his beliefs. Before giving him permission to participate in the walkout, Anita made sure he wanted to do it for the right reasons and wasn't just going along with the crowd.

Anita said it's important for parents to discuss these issues with their children. When she asked her son why he wanted to walk out, he said it was his civic duty and referenced Rosa Parks breaking the law to make a difference in the world.

"I don't think this is going to blur the lines or muddy the waters ... because he knows he had to tell me why," Anita said. "I needed to know why, and he wasn't defiant."

Other parents discouraged their children from walking out for fear that the act of defiance might have a negative effect on their college careers.

Walter was punished with a day of in-school suspension and was not allowed to run in a recent track event.

A strong supporter of the first amendment, Walter wants to encourage other students to speak up for their beliefs.

"I kind of hope that Beaufort County maybe looks at Bluffton like, 'These kids are being taught to stand up for what they believe in ... and they do have a voice and maybe we should listen to them,'" he said.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.

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