US Student walkout over guns poses balancing act for schools
Survivor of California Christmas massacre is joining walkout
Katrina Yuzefpolsky was 8 when a man dressed as Santa Claus shot her in the face and killed nine of her family members with guns and a homemade flamethrower . Now more than eight years later, Yuzefpolsky is 17 and joining a growing group of adolescents who have survived gun violence and are demanding change. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) 2/4 SLIDES © The Associated Press In this Monday, March 12, 2018, Bella Marez, left, and Katrina Yuzefpolsky pose for a photograph after practice with their high school softball team in Pasadena, Calif.
RICHMOND, Va. — As schools around the country brace for student walkouts following the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida, principals and superintendents are scrambling to perform a delicate balancing act: How to let thousands of students exercise their First Amendment rights while not disrupting school and not pulling administrators into the raging debate over gun control.
'Haunted by the tragedy,' Columbine joins U.S. gun violence walkouts
Like most of her friends at Columbine High School, Abigail Orton had not yet been born when a shooting attack at her school in a Denver suburb left 15 people dead and horrified the country. She was raised in a world in which students have regular active-shooter drills, as their parents once had fire drills, and she joined Wednesday's national student walkout against gun violence to help prevent massacres, such as the one at Columbine in 1999, from happening again."I grew up in a community still haunted by the tragedy from 19 years ago.
Some have taken a hard line, promising to suspend students who walk out, while others are using a softer approach, working with students to set up places on campus where they can remember the victims of the Florida shooting and express their views about school safety and gun control.
Since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, demonstrations have sprung up on school campuses around the country. But the first large-scale, coordinated national demonstration is planned for Wednesday when organizers of the Women's March have called for a 17-minute walkout, one minute for each of the 17 students and staff members killed in Florida.
National demonstrations are also planned for March 24, with a march on Washington, D.C.; and on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.
At a school in North Carolina, he was the only one of 700 students who walked out
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Justin Blackman got up from his desk and calmly walked out of Mr. Mendez's Spanish class. When he got outside, he discovered he was the only one. Of the approximately 700 students at Wilson Preparatory Academy in Wilson, North Carolina, 16-year-old Justin was in a company of one during the national school walkout. For 17 minutes, he said he stood by himself. He said he was disappointed no one joined him. Earlier in the morning, the teen spoke with classmates about the walkout, but they didn't seem to know about it, he said. Undeterred, when the time came, he stepped out by himself.
No matter how schools decide to deal with the demonstrations, students have been reassured by Harvard, Yale, MIT, the University of Connecticut, UCLA and dozens of other colleges and universities that their participation won't affect their chances of getting admitted.
But for middle-school and high-school administrators, figuring out how to allow the demonstrations during school hours has proven challenging. In some cases, it hasn't gone smoothly.
In Needville, Texas, near Houston, Superintendent Curtis Rhodes was castigated on social media after he warned that students who leave class would be suspended for three days, even if they get parental permission.
"SHAME, SHAME, SHAME ON YOU," wrote one woman.
In Garretson, South Dakota, administrators canceled a student walkout planned for April 20 after a Facebook posting about the plan drew more than 300 negative comments from adults.
Top U.S. educators say guns have "no place" in the classroom
2016 National Teacher of the Year and Oklahoma's 2016 Teacher of the Year discuss why they're against arming teachers and the financial challenges of being an educatorWednesday's national school walkout is calling fresh attention to the issue of gun violence and how to keep America's schools safe. Two of the nation's top educators, 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes and 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan, joined "CBS This Morning" to discuss the debate over arming teachers and the financial struggles many teachers face amid low pay and declining wages.
And in Arizona, dozens of students at Ingleside Middle School, near Phoenix, were given one-day suspensions after they left campus on Feb. 27.
Layla Defibaugh, an eighth-grade student at Ingleside, said she wanted to participate in the walkout, but didn't because of the threatened suspensions. She does plan to join the Wednesday walkout, even it means getting suspended.
"It's important for me to speak my mind on this topic," she said. "At the end of the day, they shouldn't be able to punish us for exercising our First Amendment rights."
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, has fielded dozens of calls and emails from school administrators asking for advice, while the American Civil Liberties Union has received hundreds of inquiries from students about what their rights are and if they can be disciplined for participating in the protests.
The answer depends on each school's code of conduct and disciplinary policies. Generally, the ACLU has been advising students that because they are required to go to school by law, administrators can discipline them for unexcused absences. But the ACLU also told students in an online training video that administrators can't punish them more harshly because of the political nature of their demonstrations.
Missouri high school students marked truant, punished for participating in walkout: report
Students at a Kansas City, Mo. high school who participated in a walkout to protest gun violence on Wednesday were marked truant and punished. Only about 200 of Park Hill High School's 2,000-person student body participated in the walkout as part of a larger series of student-led protests organized across the country, Fox 4 News in Kansas City reported.But students were warned against doing so by teachers. Those that did participate were greeted by teachers in the school's hallways when they returned.
The superintendents association — which is supporting the April 20 walkout— has drafted a list of suggestions for school administrators, including holding a teach-in, a school-led walkout to a spot on campus, or a session on bullying.
"There are ways to engage and harness the students in civic engagement without compromising policies in place on attendance, participation and student safety," said Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate director for policy and advocacy.
Some schools have embraced the walkouts.
In Mooresville, Indiana, administrators met with 10 high-school student leaders to work out a plan. Mooresville High School Principal Brian Disney said the students plan to use the school's public address system to read short statements about mental illness, the importance of kindness and standing up against all school violence before inviting all students to gather in a school hallway for 17 minutes of silence.
In Anne Arundel County, Maryland, administrators are still talking with students about how they can participate without violating school rules.
"I think we all realize that for folks who are teenagers right now, this could well be a defining moment in their lives. We want to very much encourage and empower student voices. That said, it has to be done in ways that are safe and appropriate," said spokesman Bob Mosier.
Barron Trump’s school calls for increased gun control
The Maryland private school that President Trump's son Barron attends joined other schools on Wednesday to push the president for "robust" measures to stem gun violence.St. Andrew's Episcopal School joined more than 100 Washington-area schools in sending an open letter to Trump, according to The Associated Press.The letter, published by The Baltimore Sun, urged Trump and Congress to support gun control measures and to reject Trump's proposal to arm teachers.
Some schools are taking a middle ground, neither encouraging nor discouraging students from participating. In Henrico County, Virginia, near Richmond, administrators sent an email to parents saying they are not sanctioning the Wednesday walkout, but feel obligated to manage the event because of its heavy promotion on social media. Middle-school principals asked parents to sign a Google document stating whether they give their children permission to participate. Schools plan to provide campus locations for the walkout.
In Somerville, Massachusetts, students say they won't stop after a single walkout. They've started a weekly movement they hope will keep public attention focused on school safety and put pressure on lawmakers to pass stricter gun control laws. The walkouts will be held every Wednesday, said Anika Nayak, 16, a student organizer.
"We're really just fed up with the lack of action that's been taken in our country," Nayak said.
"We don't think enough people are listening."
Students plan abortion protest after debate on walkout .
Students at a California high school are organizing an anti-abortion rights protest that was inspired by the recent nationwide student walkout for gun control. Rocklin High School student Brandon Gillespie tells KOVR-TV he wants to "honor all the lives of aborted babies" with the protest.He says the idea was prompted by history teacher Julianne Benzel. She was placed on administrative leave when she asked students to consider whether there was a double standard over protests on school grounds between gun control and abortion.
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