On the day Julius Jones was scheduled to be executed, my editor had asked for ideas on how we should cover the news about Jones, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Gov. Kevin Stitt commuted Jones’ sentence to life without parole about 4 hours before the scheduled execution, sparing his life. Jones, now 41, maintains his innocence.

Students had walked out of metro area high schools, exercising their 1st amendment right to peaceful assembly. I proposed talking to some of the teens who had joined the chorus of those urging Stitt to halt the execution.

The story, “Students Walk Out to Protest Death Sentence,” is not a typical investigation for Oklahoma Watch, but instead, our take on a breaking news story that we felt was important to tell. Today’s youth are igniting societal change, and they’ve played a role not in the Jones case, as well as Black Lives Matter and gun control.

Aaron Baker, a government teacher at Putnam City North High School, said he was proud of the students protesting and felt confident about the future. He teaches students to work within the system to effect change.

“What we’re seeing now is what happens when your traditional methods of using the system are beginning to break down, or you’re just not seeing the results you want, and time is of the essence. Then you try new tactics, you try something different, you diversify,” he said. “I think they’re connecting that with what’s happening.”

Their actions also struck a chord at Harvard University, where the student newspaper’s editorial board recently wrote that Oklahoma students “deserve to celebrated amid this legion of heroes.”

What do you think? As always, email and DMs open. Have a great week.

What I’m Reading

  • Schools are bringing COVID-19 vaccinations to families. [The Oklahoman]
  • Research supports later school start times for adolescents. With an average first bell of 8:04 a.m., some Oklahoma districts are considering more optimal start times. [NonDoc]
  • Downsize schools, or keep them open and hope students come back? A look at two different approaches in the Twin Cities. [The 74]
  • Republicans are already resistant to White House’s universal prekindergarten plan. [The Washington Post]

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