Wednesday, March 14, 2018

17 lives, 17 minutes: Students rally, walk out of schools to mark one-month anniversary of Parkland shooting

Students are gathering at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday morning and streaming out of schools from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to protest gun violence, one month after 17 students and teachers died in a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

High school students and supporters from Scottsdale and the southeast Valley were expected to spend part of their spring break outside the Capitol, according to Jordan Harb, a junior at Mountain View High in Mesa and an organizer of the rally.

Some students at Sunnyslope High in north central Phoenix, Xavier and Brophy preparatory schools in central Phoenix and Boulder Creek High School in Anthem will walk out of class at 10 a.m. for protests, joining students across the nation.

At most schools, the protest is expected to last 17 minutes – one minute for every person killed in the Feb. 14 shooting that devastated a South Florida community and launched a national conversation about gun control.

Cronkite News is covering student-led protests in metro Phoenix and Flagstaff, as well as on the East and West coasts.

Coordinated walkouts, student rights

In some cases, school administrators have worked with student leaders.

“Student leaders at some of our high schools have worked with administrators to develop a plan for a safe and peaceful assembly of students for students who choose to protest,” administrators of the Deer Valley Unified School District in the northwest Valley said in a letter to students and parents. “Our goal in responding to walkout plans and other forms of peaceful assembly is to keep a focus on teaching and learning.”

Administrators at Boulder Creek warned that any protest that became disorderly or veered off campus might mean discipline for students.

“It’s important to know that disorderly conduct or leaving campus is not acceptable and will be handled compassionately but firmly” based on policies in the student handbook, a letter to Boulder Creek parents said.

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BCHS letter (PDF)

BCHS letter (Text)

According to AZCentral , 40 Scottsdale students who participated in a protest on Feb. 27 received a one-day suspension for leaving campus.

Steve Kilner, communications director for the ACLU of Arizona, said students can be disciplined for participating in the walkout under certain conditions.

“If a student is leaving class, if it is against school policy or against the law, which it is in most places, for students to be out of class then they can be disciplined,” Kilner said.

But any school that doles out a harsher punishment than outlined in school district policies may be in violation of a student’s rights, he added.

“What a school cannot do is treat the students more harshly because they are participating in a walkout versus just having an unexcused absence,” Kilner said. He recommended students “see what their school’s policies are with regard to an unexcused absence for a class” before participating in the walkout.