How Will Local School Districts Handle Student Walkouts Against Gun Violence?




Local schools where students have said they will take part in the March 14 walkout against gun violence.

Local school districts are faced with deciding how they will respond if students take part in walkouts organized in response to the shooting deaths of 17 students in Parkland, Florida.

Many districts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware have not said publicly how they will respond to students who walkout, but of those who have, many said they will support the students and will work with them to see that things go smoothly.

Philadelphia School District Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., for example, told Philly.com last week that not only will students who participate in a planned 17-minute walkout on March 14 not be penalized for missing class, but “I’ll probably participate.”

A list on actionnetwork.org, which is organizing the March 14 walkout, showed that students from 45 local schools (see list below) registered to take part as of Monday afternoon.

Some in PA support walkouts, Cherry Hill East threatens suspensions

In Council Rock School District in Bucks County, PA, Superintendent Robert Fraser told Patch.com that "We are all in agreement that student activity on March 14th must not only be proactively organized, but also fully supervised by CRSD administrators, teachers, and safety personnel."

However, Cherry Hill High School East in Cherry Hill, NJ, warned students Monday that anyone who participated in any "planned disruption" would be suspended, according to PhillyVoice.com.

"Please know that those of you who opt into some sort of civil disobedience will be immediately suspended and you will lose your senior trip and prom, if you are in 12th grade," said principal Dennis Perry.

In contrast, Jim Wigo Sr., superintendent of Rose-Tree Media School District, told DelcoTimes.com that the planned protest at Penncrest High School in Media, PA is “an opportunity to come together to pay our respects for a horrible situation.”

Other Delaware County school districts said they were still discussing plans for handling walkouts, but indicated that they intend to work with students who participate.

Quakertown School District Superintendent Bill Harner posted on the Bucks County, PA district’s website last week that the protests are an educational opportunity “for students to learn about their First Amendment rights and see the importance of being involved in our democracy. “

“The students have my support!” he wrote. “In my opinion, the tragedy in Parkland has the potential to finally create the synergy for action in Washington and the Pennsylvania Capital, where it appears that our only hope to improve safety in our schools is through the voices and direct action of students.

 “My only concern is for their safety while they are at school. Therefore, our principals will be working closely with teachers and student leaders to insure that however our students decide to participate, it is planned with student safety in mind.”

There are also protests planned in Washington, D.C. on March 24 and on April 20 on school campuses across the country.

Delaware teachers' union urges members to walkout

In Delaware, the state’s largest teachers’ union is urging its members to participate in the events, according to DelawareOnline.com. However, as of last week many districts contacted had not decided how they would handle students who miss class to attend, although the Capital School District in Dover, DE, said students would not be excused without a note.

"We do not have any plans to facilitate any protests," district spokeswoman Candace McCarthy told them. "Those that may participate in Washington would be considered absent, and we would follow our normal procedures requiring a parent note to be excused."

Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald of Caesar Rodney School District in Wyoming, DE, posted a statement on the district's website Monday saying that he would not support students or teachers walking out of class on March 14.

"I cannot support allowing students to disrupt the educational setting by leaving their classrooms to 'walk out,'" he wrote. "Teachers do not have the option to walk out during the work day. They are responsible for the other children in their class."

However, Superintendent Mark Holodick of Brandywine School District in Wilmington, DE, said the district will support students and teachers who decide to participate.

"Their right to peacefully and appropriately express their discontent will indeed be honored. Students respect and appreciate being treated equitably and fairly. They deserve it," he said in a statement on the district website.

Local schools registered to take part in March 14 walkout

These schools were listed on actionnetwork.org's website as taking part in the March 14 walkout as of Feb. 26.

Abington Senior High School Abington
Bayard High School Walkout West Chester
Bensalem Township Schools Bensalem
Central Bucks High School East Doylestown
Central Bucks High School West Doylestown
Central Bucks Lenape Middle School Doylestown
Central Bucks South High School Warrington
Central Bucks Tamanend Middle School Warrington
Central Bucks Tohickon Middle School Doylestown
Central High School Philadelphia
Charter School of Wilmington Wilmington
Council Rock North Newtown
Downingtown East High School Exton
Ewing High School Ewing
Exeter Jr and Sr High School Reading
Germantown Friends School Philadelphia
Haddon Township High School Westmont
Haddonfield Memorial High School Haddonfield
Haverford High School  Havertown
Henderson high School West Chester
Hightstown Highschool Hightstown
Hopewell Valley Central High School Pennington
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy Bryn Mawr
John Dickinson High School Wilmington
Kennett High School Kennett Square
Kensington CAPA High School Philadelphia
Lawrence High School Lawrenceville
Logans Circle Philadelphia
Lower Merion High School Ardmore
Lower Moreland High School Huntingdon Valley
Middle Bucks Institute of Technology Jamison
New Hope Solebury HS & MS New Hope
North Penn High School Lansdale
Owen J Roberts High School Pottstown
Pennsbury High School Langhorne
Phoenixville Area High School Phoenixville
Princeton High School Princeton
Shawnee High School Medford
Spring-Ford Royersford
Upper Merion Area High School King of Prussia
Ursuline Academy Wilmington
West Windsor-Plainsboro HS North Plainsboro
West Windsor-Plainsboro HS South Princeton Junction
William Penn High School New Castle

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