Stu­dents plan­ning to leave classes, but not cam­puses

The Palm Beach Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Sonja Is­ger Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Across Palm Beach County, stu­dents are pre­par­ing to an­swer the na­tional call to walk out of class at 10 a.m. to­day and have their voices heard on the one-month an­niver­sary of the shoot­ings at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School.

What those walkouts look like is ex­pected to vary widely across the coun­try, with some su­per­in­ten­dents and prin­ci­pals threat­en­ing to sus­pend or stop stu­dents who walk, while oth­ers are work­ing

with stu­dents in their bud­ding ac­tivism.

This is what that ac­tivism is about and shap­ing up to look like in Palm Beach County’s public schools.

Where this started

The group be­hind the na­tional walk­out is EM­POWER, which or­ga­nized the na­tional Women’s March. Ac­cord­ing to the group, the #ENOUGH! Na­tional School Walk­out seeks to honor the lives of the 17 peo­ple killed Feb. 14 at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas and to protest elected of­fi­cials’ in­ac­tion on gun vi­o­lence. The group is call­ing for a 17-minute walk­out to honor the 17 who died. What stu­dents and schools do with that time is up to them, but it of­fered a tool kit for or­ga­niz­ers.

Among the talk­ing points: Have con­ver­sa­tions with school ad­min­is­tra­tors about your plans. A walk­out doesn’t have to be out­side or off cam­pus. And, “For safety rea­sons, we re­quest adults NOT join school walkouts on school cam­puses un­less they work there or are invited by school staff.”

Plan­ning walkouts, but not walkoffs

Stu­dents at some of the county’s more than two dozen high schools re­port they are plan­ning to leave the class­room, but not the cam­pus. Should any­one de­cide to step off prop­erty, district ad­min­is­tra­tors have di­rected prin­ci­pals not to fol­low, spokes­woman Amity Schuyler said.

The district also con­tacted elected and ap­pointed govern­ment lead­ers in the com­mu­nity, ask­ing them to dis­cour­age walkouts.

“We’ve stressed to stu­dents and par­ents we can­not se­cure the cam­pus and keep stu­dents who walk off safe. The pri­or­ity has to be the safety of the cam­pus and the stu­dents on it,” Schuyler said.

Speeches, voter registration, let­ter writ­ing

The district is call­ing this A Day of Ac­tion.

Palm Beach Cen­tral High stu­dents have invited speak­ers in­clud­ing politi­cians and even a Park­land stu­dent to their event. At Dwyer High, the new Stu­dents Against Gun Vi­o­lence or­ga­ni­za­tion is grow­ing its mem­ber­ship, a voter registration booth will be on hand, as will a booth for stu­dents who wish to get in on a let­ter-writ­ing cam­paign. Sun­coast High stu­dents rep­re­sent­ing mul­ti­ple clubs and or­ga­ni­za­tions have co­or­di­nated a re­mem­brance of each of the Stone­man Dou­glas vic­tims in the school court­yard as well as an im­pas­sioned call to ac­tion.

Stepped up po­lice pres­ence

While district ad­min­is­tra­tors say they an­tic­i­pate the planned ac­tiv­i­ties to go off peace­fully and for stu­dents to re­main on prop­erty, they have plans for ad­di­tional po­lice and staff on cam­puses, Chief Aca­demic Of­fi­cer Keith Oswald said Tues­day.

What will hap­pen should stu­dents at­tempt to leave cam­pus? “We’ll have to han­dle that when it comes up,” Oswald said. Oswald said ad­min­is­tra­tors at each school worked closely with stu­dents to dis­cuss how to achieve their goals. “What does change mean to them? What do they want to see hap­pen­ing and is walk­ing off cam­pus the best av­enue?” Oswald said.

“We’re tak­ing a very re­flec­tive ap­proach that helps our stu­dents grow and un­der­stand that there are other ways to ex­press them­selves.” That said, leav­ing school to protest is not an ap­proved school func­tion, Oswald said. And do­ing so will come with the con­se­quences typ­i­cally im­posed at each school for be­ing ab­sent with­out that ap­proval.

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