ACLU of Georgia

National School Walkouts | What you need to know

By Catherine Park | WXIA-TV Ch 11 (Atlanta) | March 13, 2018

Here is what you need to know about the March 14 National School Walkouts. students-cobb-county
Thousands of students plan to participate in the national school walkouts slated to happen on March 14, 2018.
This march will be the first of three walkouts that are planned for the month of March and April.
Here is what you need to know about the school walkouts:
When are they happening?
March 14
The first is #ENOUGH, being organized in conjunction with the Women’s March EMPOWER branch on March 14 at 10 a.m.. That date marks one month since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This organizers are encouraging everyone in the school to walkout for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 lives lost in the shooting.
A Decatur mom is involved in the planning and said the point is to, “to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”
March 24
On March 24, the Parkland survivors are organizing a #March4OurLives rally in Washington D.C. where students and their supporters will take to the streets of the nation’s capitol to “demand that their lives and safety become a priority that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today,” according to their website.
Those not in Washington are encouraged to march in their own communities.
April 20
On April 20 there will be an organized walkout called the National School Walkout movement. This date is the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. The organizers are encouraging students to “Walk out of school, wear orange and protest online and in your communities.”
What is the goal?
The March 14 walkout is a call to Congress to “pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship,” according to Women’s March Youth EMPOWER organizers.
The National School Walkout at 10 a.m. and will last 17 minutes to honor the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day.
Will students be punished?
So far, these are the responses we have gotten from local metro Atlanta schools on how they plan to handle these walkouts:
APS has coordinated with students to hold structured, pre-approved activities beginning at 10 a.m..
Examples of schools holding special programs include Inman Middle School, Grady High School and Washington High School, are some of the schools holding special programs
No response
At 10 a.m., a student-led program over the intercom will take place in support of the families that lost loved ones in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen seconds of silence will follow the program.
“We respect students’ rights to political speech and to assemble, but also are strongly committed to ensuring such activities don’t disrupt the education of their classmates,” the district said in a statement. “In anticipation that our students will want to join in the National event, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower directed all of our high school Principals to assist their school’s student government leaders in planning student-led observances.
These events will be held at the same time as the National event from approximately 10 to 10:17 a.m. on March 14. While student led, the events will be supervised by school administrators and CCSD School Police Officers to ensure safety and security.”
The school district said it will support the efforts of students and staff to participate in peaceful demonstrations.
“I join with other members of CCPS leadership in a belief that it is important to give our students a voice concerning critical matters that have a direct impact on their lives,” Superintendent Morcease Beasley said in a statement. “They should be allowed an opportunity to participate in the democratic process to display their opinions within an instructional non-disruptive experience.”
In addition, the superintendent said school principals have been directed to to support any events, and every effort will be made to perform due diligence to ensure a safe and secure environment. No students will be penalized for participating in any demonstration.
The Cobb County School District said it will work with students to identify the best methods to accomplish the “demonstration of empathy” without interruption of normal school operation.
For example, the district said, at Walton High School, staff is offering to have a special program at 7:50 a.m. before the start of the school day.
Will be included as part of the school day.
Read a letter to parents from Superintendent, Dr. R. Stephen Green:
Students across the nation, including some of our own students, have staged peaceful protests in response to the Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy in Florida and the discussion around gun control legislation during the past few days.
We can expect similar demonstrations in the days ahead, including national protests set for March 14, March 24 and April 20.
The DeKalb County School District supports students’ Constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and free expression. However, our top priority is to support the academic and social emotional needs of our students while maintaining a safe and orderly environment for all students and staff. We also respect those students who choose not to participate in these planned events.
If a student walkout or protest happens in one of our schools, we will allow the students to peacefully protest. We encourage our students to be respectful. Please understand that the Student Code of Conduct remains in place and will be enforced during these times. We will not tolerate behavior that disrupts school operations or threatens the safety and order of our schools.
It can be a teachable moment where students can demonstrate their First Amendment right to be heard, knowing there are natural consequences to civil disobedience.
If your child is feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to your school administrator for support and guidance. We are here for our students and families during this turbulent time in our society.
Thank you for your continued support of your district and your school.
In a statement, the Douglas County School system said the district “will acknowledge our students’ right to protest in a civil and orderly manner. If our students walk out for a reasonable amount of time and return in an orderly fashion, there will be no consequences.”
The district said the walkouts will be supervised and and will occur in an “orderly manner.”
While the school district said it is not supporting walk-outs, Fayette County Public Schools said it does support students’ reasonable exercise of their constitutional rights around free expression.
“We encourage you to work with your students and staff to support those that want to honor the lives lost,” the district said in a statement. “Some schools will hold special programs, like Lambert High School in Suwanee. They are doing a special ‘Lunch n’ Learn.’
After initially warning parents students a walkout would count as an unexcused absence per their policy regarding absences and disruptions, the district appears to have reversed that decision.
Fulton County Schools now say they will adapt middle and high school students’ schedules to provide opportunities to allow students to participate in March 14 walkout demonstrations.
“This is a learning opportunity for our students,” said Superintendent Jeff Rose. “The District will provide support to schools, ensuring a supervised environment. We will allow students to respectfully express their support for those impacted by the Parkland, Florida shooting.”
Unexcused absence
Hall County’s school district said its school administrations have been discussing the issue of school shootings with leadership within their schools.
“By taking this approach of seeking input from our students as to steps that could be taken to make their schools safer, we hope to avoid any perceived need to have a walkout,” the district said in a statement.
Will be included as part of the school day.
“City of Marietta has special opportunities for students and also parents,” the district said. “For example, Marietta High School is inviting parents and supporters to come out and stand outside their school campus.”
As an alternative, principals and administrative teams at Paulding County’s five high schools said they are working with student leaders to develop activities tailored for each school.
“These activities may include dialogue among students and teachers, classroom lessons on how students may participate in formal civic engagement, opportunities for students to assemble before school hours at a designated location on campus, and several schools that will have students sign banners of support that will be sent to Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, Fla,” the district said.
“We are not endorsing an unstructured walkout,” the district said. “However, we respect the rights of our students and are working with those who choose to participate in a structured manner.”