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Educators split over national school walkout against gun violence

By
Sommer Brokaw
A student holding her bear walked past signs after being dismissed from class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 28, the first day back. The school was closed for two weeks after the school shooting that killed 17 students and teachers. Photo by Gary Rothstein/UPI
A student holding her bear walked past signs after being dismissed from class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on February 28, the first day back. The school was closed for two weeks after the school shooting that killed 17 students and teachers. Photo by Gary Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

March 8 (UPI) -- Educators are split as students nationwide prepare to walk out in protest next Wednesday, the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at a Florida high school.

The Women's March Action Network is calling on students to walk out "for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. across every time zone" next Wednesday "to protest Congress' inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods."

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Students in 1,855 schools nationwide plan to join the planned protest in solidarity with students in Parkland, Fla., where 14 children and three educators were fatally shot last month.

Some district superintendents are allowing students to walk out while others are not permitting protests.

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In Michigan, some superintendents are working with students to plan events for the 17 designated minutes. Caro Community Schools Superintendent Bob Smith told the Saginaw News that the walkout event will be focused on grieving instead of gun control. The event, with a planned balloon release, was organized by students "with feedback from staff and administrators," Smith said.

In Maine, City of Portland School Superintendent Xavier Botana has allowed students to walkout of classes in a 10-10:30 a.m. intermission next week.

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"We are proud that our students are passionate about advocating for their beliefs. They have a powerful voice that can effect change and it is our role as educators to support them as they learn to apply democratic principles in action," Botana said in a letter to parents and staff earlier this month.

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Elsewhere, though, other districts have signaled that students will not be allowed to walk out of their classes.

Maryland's Hartford County Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Canavan told students in a letter Thursday not to join Wednesday's walkout, The Aegis newspaper reported. Still, they will have a "learning module," to voice their opinions, she wrote.

Superintendent Virginia Rebar, of a rural district in Somerset County, Maine, said students who join the protest will be "absent without permission" and "subject to normal disciplinary procedures."

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At least one other disciplinary action appeared to go further.

Last month, Superintendent Curtis Rhodes of a school district in Texas said on social media that students who took part in the national protest would be suspended for three days.

One major school district has softened its original opposition to the protest. Although Georgia's Fulton County School District initially said it wouldn't allow a walkout, it clarified that it was open to supervised gatherings outside of class on school grounds, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

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"It's very clear that students and our families are passionate around this topic and like any good teacher we need to monitor and adjust," Superintendent Jeff Rose said in the AJC report.

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