Exactly one month since the shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, thousands of students and teachers are planning to have walkouts throughout the country on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, dubbed the #Enough! National School Walkout, in order to raise awareness of school safety and gun violence. However, the upcoming protest has sparked controversy among schools throughout the United States, with some threatening suspension for students who participate.
What will happen?
Organized by Women’s March Youth Empower, the nationwide walkout is expected to start at 10 A.M. and will last around 17 minutes; the time is intended to honor the 17 people who lost their lives in the shooting. On their official Twitter account, the group released the following statement:
“On Wednesday, students across the nation are walking out of class to demand Congress act NOW to end gun violence. Join us March 14th at 10am across time zones. #ENOUGHhttp://womensmarch.com/enough”
On the official Women’s March website, tips were given explaining on how to host a walkout; according to Action Network, this included wearing orange, the color representing movement, to showcase solidarity, hosting sign-making events, asking schools to host assemblies discussing the issues before or even after the walkout and writing letters to Congress. It was also stressed that activities not willingly exclude people and be non-violent, advocating for the Women’s March Unity Principles.
The organization also offered a tool-kit for students
In addition, the website also offered a tool-kit, which could also be downloaded as a PDF. Essentially an expansion of the aforementioned tips, the tool-kits reminded that people should take precaution that whatever action taken be performed in a safe manner, also advising students let their school officials know what is happening beforehand:
“Have conversations with your school administration or school resource officer to help determine best practices that take into account the safety of all students. If walking outside is not a safe option then consider walking-out into hallways, congregate in your school gym, or simply stand up in your classroom for 17 minutes. We encourage adults not to join walkouts on school campuses unless they work there or have been directly invited by the school’s administration.”
In addition, it was also advised that students, or whoever was participating in the walkouts in general, do whatever they need to help stress the importance of community:
“This is YOUR 17-minute walkout! You can circle your school holding hands, you can stage your walkout in your school’s hallway, you can hold a lie-in on school grounds, or any other action that makes sense for you and your community.”
How are schools reacting to this?
According to CNN, some schools also warned that students could have punishment for participating in the upcoming walkouts. In one example, the Needville Independent School District in Texas issued a warning that students who participated in the walkout or similar protest would risk a three-day suspension. Superintendent Curtis Rhodes confirmed this with the following statement on Facebook, but has since been taken down, according to CNN:
“Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved. All will be suspended for 3 days and parent notes will not alleviate the discipline.”
“A school is a place to learn and grow educationally, emotionally and morally. A disruption of the school will not be tolerated.”
Reportedly, the message was posted on the same day a 14-year-old student was charged with making a terroristic threat and arrested at Needville Junior High School.
According to CNN, a school district in Waukesha, Wisconsin, issued a letter from Superintendent Todd Gray to parents warning that students who would participate in the walkouts would be appropriately disciplined:
“Participation in a walkout is disruptive and against school regulations, and will subject students to disciplinary measures.”
A follow-up statement from Gray on Facebook claimed that the intention of the letter was to make clear the school had no direct involvement with the protest, adding that they were not aware of students who planned to involve themselves in the walkout and that parents had a “right” to excuse their children:
“At no time have we said students cannot make a statement peacefully while staying in school.”
“We acknowledge that individuals have a right to demonstrate to support a cause. Therefore, if parents wish to excuse their children from school to attend such an event or demonstration, that is their right.”