Calls for a nationwide student walkout on March 14 to pressure Congress to enact legislation to reduce gun violence and improve school safety has local educators and administrators preparing accordingly. The principal at the school, Matthew Dick, sent a letter to parents that outlines safety plans for the walkout created to protest violence and honor the victims in Parkland.
The letter cited a Supreme Court case that found students do not give up their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression once they enter school. However, the law empowers schools to establish limitations to maintain order and minimize disruption to the school day.
"It is important for students to understand that any school-imposed effect is not meant to be punitive, but rather is inherent to the meaning and the significance of the walkout", wrote Safier.
Williams reiterated that school officials are unaware of any plans for students to walk out, "but we will work with students and the Gainesville Police Department as the date approaches". "Students who participate in a school-authorized walkout activity and return to class at its conclusion will not be subject to discipline", Provost said. Those students who don't receive parental consent could be charged with an unexcused absence from the building.
"We are also encouraging parents to have age-appropriate conversations with their children about the event and their expectations for their child's behavior on that day", Smith said.
Gainesville High Principal Tom Smith said that while he is confident in the school system's plan to handle any kind of demonstration, "We want to focus on educating our students".
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"We don't take a position, we don't take an advocacy role, but we do want to take steps to be sure it's safe and as intended", Liebow said. "MPD will be blocking entrances to Maumee High School to ensure the safety of our students as they peacefully assemble".
"All students will be given the option to participate, but no one is required to participate", McNeal said in the email.
Richard Pohlman, executive director of Thurgood Marshall Academy in Anacostia, said teachers are working with students to coordinate a program on gun violence and grief during the walkout.
As of Friday, D.C. Public Schools did not have a policy or guidance available on how it will handle the walkouts. "In four years, our oldest students will be allowed to vote". Some students, Garcia said, don't feel the walkout is the best way to honor students. This week's walkouts, unfolding across the country, are a prelude to a march on Washington planned for March 24 that could bring hundreds of thousands of students to the capital.
"Compared to other school districts", she said, "(Gloucester's) response shows they're more open minded than some.