“We cannot condone students leaving classes during the instructional day to participate in this activity,” said Barbara P. Canavan, the schools superintendent in Harford County, Md., who said that the protest “presents, paradoxically, a threat to student safety, as word of the walkout has been widely disseminated and students who go outside could become more vulnerable.”
Instead, Ms. Canavan said, her district would offer “a learning module that will provide students with an opportunity to share their feelings about recent events across the nation and will allow them to speak about solutions in a structured way.”
Still, students openly defied school districts that had warned them not to participate. In Cobb County, Ga., near Atlanta, where the school district had threatened discipline, more than 100 students at Walton High School marched from their school moments before the clock hit 10 a.m. The students, some bearing signs and others just stoic expressions, walked past the portable classrooms abutting the student parking lot and filed onto the football field. A small group of parents huddled together in a subdivision, supporting the students.
Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for policy and advocacy for AASA, the association of the nation’s superintendents, said that schools had to balance the First Amendment rights of students with their other responsibilities, including safety.
One planned demonstration at Broughton Magnet High School in Raleigh, N.C., was abruptly canceled when the principal learned of a threat. “The principal was made aware from another student that somebody had posted a threat on Snapchat directed toward the walkout,” Lisa Luten, a spokeswoman for the school system in Wake County, said on Wednesday.
Ms. Luten said the principal had asked students to return to class and that they had complied. Law enforcement officials were investigating.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has offered training to students planning to participate in the walkouts, said that districts can discipline students under attendance guidelines, but cannot “discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action.” Many colleges, meanwhile, have said that high school students disciplined for protesting will not have it counted against them when they apply for admission.
Officials in Lafayette Parish, La., initially said that students could participate in the walkout, believing that it would honor the Florida victims, but when it became clear there was a political undercurrent, a wave of outrage from the public led the school board to adopt a new plan: a minute of silence.
Jeremy Hidalgo, the school board’s vice president, said that parents were frustrated by plans to use 17 minutes of class time for anything beyond the traditional curriculum and that they “were just disgusted and disappointed that we were going to participate in a national walkout that was geared around gun control.”
He expected some students to demonstrate anyway.
And in many high schools, 10 a.m. may pass without anyone getting up from their chairs.
Ronald S. Saari, the district administrator in Potosi, Wis., said he did not anticipate any walkouts there. “We believe that because we are rural, there is a different perspective than the highly publicized gun violence narrative we see in most of the media,” he said in an email. “Comments we have heard have been, ‘Why would people want to go outside of the school, to protest, when there can be some nut out there who could shoot at students?’”
Why they are walking, in their own words.
We asked students across the country who planned to participate why they were doing so. Here are some of their responses:
“Seventeen people are dead and I am no longer willing to listen to politicians who deem my life less valuable than a piece of metal.” — Maya Homan, Palo Alto, Calif.
“On Wednesday, we plan to say the name, age and story of each of the victims, followed by a moment of silence. We’re doing this so that the students and faculty that were killed are not just remembered as numbers, but as people. Also, most people at my school feel separated from these tragedies, so giving them background information on the victims could help them feel more connected.” — Jessica Burg, Westchester County, N.Y.
“I am walking out of school on Wednesday because our president and Congress need to do more than just tweet prayers and thoughts.” — Beyoncé Brown, Philadelphia
“Students don’t get to voice their opinion very often and it’s thrilling to be one of the millions across the United States who will have that option. The students at Stoneman Douglas who have spoken out and become activists are incredibly inspiring.” — Katie Cummins, Louisville, Ky.Continue reading the main story
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