Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Global | By Shelia Dennis

Midlands schools brace for national student walkout over school shootings

Midlands schools brace for national student walkout over school shootings

A representative group of high school students met with its principal, Mathew Triolo, and chose to participate in the National School Walkout on March 14 as a way to honor the 17 lives lost in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, Piperato said.

"We are now aware that students across the nation, including some middle and high school students here in Carroll County, may consider walking out of school on Wednesday, March 14, to honor the 17 victims of the February mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, and to bring attention to gun violence", Guthrie wrote.

WHAS11 News spoke with two students from St. Francis High School who are helping organize a Walkout Wednesday at their school.

This act of peaceful protest will occur exactly one month after the shooting in Parkland and will last for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the lives lost.

Some activities include registering to vote, writing letters to Congressmen about gun violence, lighting 19 candles in remembrance of the victims and writing letters to teachers, students and victim's families involved in the school shootings.

Carroll County Public Schools will allow students to participate in a modified version of Wednesday's National School Walkout, though CCPS will not let students leave their buildings, citing safety concerns.

Do Students Have to Participate?

"We haven't heard a whole lot from the high school on what they're planning to do", Hazen said.

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Some schools are taking a middle ground, neither encouraging nor discouraging students from participating.

BART Principal April West said the school can not officially take a stand in a political issue, but it is taking steps to ensure the health and safety of students who choose to take part in the walkout.

The primary responsibility for ensuring students remain in school lies with the child's parent and the School District.

Students won't be punished for having their own event, "provided that activity is coordinated with the school principal", Clayton said in a text message.

Students also can sign a student-drafted resolution that the students hope to present to Mehaffie and the rest of the state Legislature at the state capitol. Heckathorn said students plan to march around the football field carrying a banner signed by students.

South Haven Superintendent Robert Herrera said his district's students held a respectful and well-organized walkout last week, so would not be participating in Wednesday's event.

The School Superintendents Association (AASA), has fielded dozens of calls and emails from school administrators asking for advice, while the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has received hundreds of inquiries from students about what their rights are and if they can be disciplined for participating in the protests.

It is unclear how many schools will have walkouts, but spokespeople for the districts said the schools were working to balance the students' right to free speech with their safety.

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"We are following the lead of our students", the principal said.

The school board approved both events during the board's March 6 meeting, after the board and administrators were briefed by middle school Principal Kevin Cook and high school Principal Michael Carnes.

Schools will allow students to participate in the walkout. While Babineau approved the event, all of it - from the reading of the victims' names to the Junior ROTC appearance - was planned by teens.

The student-drafted resolution "focuses on mental health, it doesn't focus on guns", Carnes said during his March 6 presentation.

Because we do not want continued disruption of our daily school routines, guidelines have been provided to our school leaders, should walkouts or protests continue this school year.

And in Arizona, dozens of students at Ingleside Middle School, near Phoenix, were given one-day suspensions after they left campus on February 27.

"It's important for me to speak my mind on this topic", she said. Because they are on a college campus, they didn't have to get permission from administrators and won't face disciplinary action.

"This is not a legal question, Wizner said, "but all students should have the right to remain in a safe school environment".

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