American Civil Liberties Union

National School Walkout: Florida Shooting Spurs Countrywide Protest Today

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• In support of the walkouts, the media giant Viacom said that its networks, including MTV, BET, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, will “suspend regularly scheduled programming for 17 minutes” when 10 a.m. occurs in each time zone and that students will take over MTV’s social media accounts during the protests.

Many will protest in places haunted by violence.

Some of the day’s most poignant demonstrations could happen at schools whose names are synonymous with shootings.

In Colorado, students at Columbine High School will leave their classrooms and begin 30 seconds of silence: 17 for the dead in Parkland and 13 for the dead on their own campus in the shooting that seemed to signify the beginning of a generation of school attacks.

Students from two nearby high schools will also walk out in solidarity.

Sam Craig, 15, a lead organizer and a student at one of the area’s high schools, said he was pushed to act after watching the videos coming out of Parkland.

“We saw people in classrooms just like ours, wearing clothes just like ours, they looked like they could have been any one of us at any of our schools,” he said. “And seeing them lying in pools of blood was really powerful for us.”

Walkouts are also expected in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The district’s interim superintendent, Lorrie Rodrigue, said this month that school officials had “worked closely with student leaders to create a time for respectful student expression,” according to school board minutes. Dr. Rodrigue said she viewed the protests as an extension of social studies classes.

And in Parkland, students at Stoneman Douglas High are expected to hold their own walkout at 10 a.m. A few hours later, the suspect in the rampage there, Nikolas Cruz, is expected to appear in court.

Not all districts are treating walkouts the same way.

Although some school districts have openly accommodated the protests, others have warned that they will discipline students who participate by marking them as absent or even suspending them.

“We cannot condone students leaving classes during the instructional day to participate in this activity,” said Barbara P. Canavan, the schools superintendent in Harford County, Md., who said that the protest “presents, paradoxically, a threat to student safety, as word of the walkout has been widely disseminated and students who go outside could become more vulnerable.”

Instead, Ms. Canavan said, her district would offer “a learning module that will provide students with an opportunity to share their feelings about recent events across the nation and will allow them to speak about solutions in a structured way.”

In Muscogee County, Ga., administrators arranged a video conference between students and state lawmakers but warned of “immediate disciplinary action” against students who participated in “unapproved exercises,” such as a walkout.

Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for policy and advocacy for AASA, the association of the nation’s superintendents, said that schools had to balance the First Amendment rights of students with their other responsibilities, including safety.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has offered training to students planning to participate in the walkouts, said that districts can discipline students under attendance guidelines, but cannot “discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action.” Many colleges, meanwhile, have said that high school students disciplined for protesting will not have it counted against them when they apply for admission.

Officials in Lafayette Parish, La., initially said that students could participate in the walkout, believing that it would honor the Florida victims, but when it became clear there was a political undercurrent, a wave of outrage from the public led the school board to adopt a new plan: a minute of silence.

Jeremy Hidalgo, the school board’s vice president, said that parents were frustrated by plans to use 17 minutes of class time for anything beyond the traditional curriculum and that they “were just disgusted and disappointed that we were going to participate in a national walkout that was geared around gun control.”

He expected some students to demonstrate anyway.

And in many high schools, 10 a.m. may pass without anyone getting up from their chairs.

Ronald S. Saari, the district administrator in Potosi, Wis., said he did not anticipate any walkouts there. “We believe that because we are rural, there is a different perspective than the highly publicized gun violence narrative we see in most of the media,” he said in an email. “Comments we have heard have been, ‘Why would people want to go outside of the school, to protest, when there can be some nut out there who could shoot at students?’”


What Makes #NeverAgain Different?

The protests calling for stricter gun control measures come on the heels of other youth movements, but the momentum they have gained makes them stand out.

By NEETI UPADHYE on Publish Date February 24, 2018. . Watch in Times Video »

Why they are walking, in their own words.

We asked students across the country who planned to participate why they were doing so. Here are some of their responses:

“Seventeen people are dead and I am no longer willing to listen to politicians who deem my life less valuable than a piece of metal.” — Maya Homan, Palo Alto, Calif.

“On Wednesday, we plan to say the name, age and story of each of the victims, followed by a moment of silence. We’re doing this so that the students and faculty that were killed are not just remembered as numbers, but as people. Also, most people at my school feel separated from these tragedies, so giving them background information on the victims could help them feel more connected.” — Jessica Burg, Westchester County, N.Y.

“I am walking out of school on Wednesday because our president and Congress need to do more than just tweet prayers and thoughts.” — Beyoncé Brown, Philadelphia

“Students don’t get to voice their opinion very often and it’s thrilling to be one of the millions across the United States who will have that option. The students at Stoneman Douglas who have spoken out and become activists are incredibly inspiring.” — Katie Cummins, Louisville, Ky.

How young is too young for children to join the protests?

Elise Cappella, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School, said there was a difference between what the youngest students — from kindergarten to second grade — and older children could understand about the walkout. While not advocating any particular stance, she said: “Schools could make the decision that kids in kindergarten through second grade are not provided the opportunity to walk out. They are cognitively, socially, emotionally younger. They may feel more fear about it and less understanding.”

Children in the third grade and up, she said, will be more likely to be exposed to news and hear their parents talking about it. “They are reaching a point where having something that’s potentially positive and productive to do that makes them feel a sense of agency and safety could be a good thing,” she said.

Ms. Cappella said that whether elementary schools decided to participate in the protest or not, the goal should be to project a sense of community to their students.

“And if you can create that space,” she said, “whether that’s in the classroom or in the hallways or in the schoolyard or out at a protest or a march, that’s the most beneficial space for young kids to be in.”

Read more about how elementary schools prepared for the walkout here.

Continue reading the main story

Wendy Pettit

Wendy Pettit is a writer for NYT and writes for other publications on her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and her dog Zuko.

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