University School 2

Students from University School of the Lowcountry walked out of class on March 14, 2018, and marched along Coleman Boulevard holding signs as part of the National School Walkout protest against gun violence. Jason Kreutner/Provided

South Carolina high school students learned an important lesson this week: Their safety and First Amendment rights don’t matter.

At least, not as much as the tender feelings of right-wingers with gun fetishes.

On Wednesday, high-schoolers across the country walked out of class for 17 minutes to honor the victims of a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. — and protest the nation's alarming rash of gun violence.

The point of a demonstration is to draw attention to an issue, yet school officials across the state did their damnedest to make sure no one saw this overwhelming display of unity.

Charleston County schools herded students to interior courtyards or gymnasiums and refused to allow journalists access, while Berkeley County schools threatened to punish students who walked out of class. Politicians even accused these kids of pushing a “liberal” political agenda.

How dare these students promote asinine lefty hooey like the right not to be shot.

But these coordinated attempts to avoid angering conservative snowflakes backfired horribly.

“It was an easy way for the administration to appear to give us a voice while simultaneously silencing us,” Caelan Bailey, an Academic Magnet High sophomore, told The Post and Courier.

See, students recognized the hypocrisy.

Hopefully they’ll remember that when they register to vote.

That's the problem ...

Even giving school administrators the benefit of the doubt, their excuses were laughably contradictory.

For instance, James Island Charter High Principal Tim Thorn defended the decision to direct protesters into an interior courtyard — and run reporters off campus. Thorn said it wasn’t his job to make his kids accessible to possible shooters.

That's a prudent point, but it only confirms the problem. The idea that some nut might take a shot at kids on school grounds is exactly why they were protesting. But, by all means, let's not highlight the real danger.

Truth is, most public schools and the politicians who control them are hypocrites. They won’t dare offend people who worship the Second Amendment, yet are perfectly comfortable declaring the First Amendment optional.

Ashley Hall was among those admirable schools that let their students demonstrate publicly, perhaps because they understand the issue. A deranged woman tried to shoot up their campus a few years ago.

The message of these students should be heard, not filtered through hacks shilling for the NRA. No one is calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment.

Which, by the way, was written for militias — and at a time when guns fired a single shot and took a minute to reload.

All these students want is for the country to value their lives more than the "right" of somebody to own a military-grade weapon built for only one purpose: to kill a lot of people quickly.

Maybe conservatives would feel better if they just put their own spin on this.

They could call it being "pro-life."

Campaign agendas

Gov. Henry McMaster said the walk-outs were a shameful left-wing political ploy.

“It is not about the tragedy, it’s not about the school children, but what we should all do — and what these students should do ... is to pray and to hope,” he told ETV. “This is a tricky move, I believe, by a left-wing group ... to use these children as a tool to further their own means.”

The governor took this brave stance in the lobby of the Statehouse, where visitors must pass through a metal detector and get by armed law enforcement officers to enter.

Think about that a second.

Of course, the governor is neither heartless nor is he a fool. He’s simply locked in a primary campaign against dog-whistle candidate Catherine Templeton, who suggested the superintendent of education be fired for allowing students to demonstrate.

In other words, Templeton opposes constitutional rights when they don’t mirror her beliefs ... or, more accurately, don't jibe with her campaign strategy of attracting the most unreasonable loons capable of stumbling into a voting booth.

You can bet if these students had chosen to march in favor of voter ID laws that curb black turnout — you know, a right wing political agenda — these candidates would be whistling a different tune.

“Dixie,” it's called.

The problem, governor, is that prayers aren’t doing diddly. People continue to murder kids by the dozens and politicians care more about kowtowing to gun nuts than doing anything that might save a life or two.

Students should protest every week until that changes.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.