In the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February, the nation’s attention has been focused on issues of gun violence and control, school safety and civic engagement. Wednesday, March 14 has been highlighted as a day for students across the nation to honor the lives lost in Florida.
What is the National School Walkout?
Organized nationally by Womens’ March Youth EMPOWER, the event is to take place at 10 AM for 17 minutes with the intention to “demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.”
How are Oregon school districts handling the event?
While school districts are not encouraging students to participate, they will not prevent students from leaving class. Some schools are planning other activities, such as assemblies, group activities about safety at their school, writing letters to the local paper or local officials, taking a peaceful walk around the school, students and staff joining hands on the playground and more.
Many administrators are speaking with student leaders and student groups about how to create a positive day that will have lasting benefits for the school beyond March 14.
What are consequences for students who leave class?
The district’s policy regarding attendance will be followed. Students should not be disciplined for engaging in the act of protest. However, a walkout protest is an act of civil disobedience and, by definition, a violation of rules. Students may receive an unexcused absence for the time they are out of school. However, the penalty should be no greater than if a student left campus for the same period of time without permission for any other reason.
Are teachers and staff allowed to participate?
No. Staff members are prohibited from participating in political activity during work time and district resources cannot be used to promote political activity. Staff members should remain at their assigned location during a protest and perform their assigned tasks.
If students are allowed to gather on school property, administrators must provide supervision and maintain control of the situation. As always, student safety is the number one priority.
What should parents do?
Talk to your child. This can be an excellent opportunity to discuss with your student their rights to freedom of speech in our country and the chance to freely express opinions in a respectful and peaceful way. It may be helpful to ask your child if he/she is considering participating and the consequences regarding school absence if they do.
What will happen after the event?
Schools are being encouraged to continue the dialogue with their students, to debrief with student leaders about lessons learned and keep lines of communication open regarding improved safety, inclusion and positive change to the school community.