Students across the country are preparing for another walkout to protest gun violence, but the day of this particular walkout also has significance.
The national walkout will be on Friday, April 20, which is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. The goal is to commemorate Columbine and call to end gun violence in schools.
Schools in our area are reacting to the news of another walkout in different ways. While some are on board, others are choosing a different approach to spread the message. The Baltimore School for the Arts will be holding a play performed by one of their students. The play "Natural Shocks" is based on Hamlet's "To be or not to be" and is about a girl who is waiting out a tornado. While she is waiting, she tells stories and secrets that they say will put the reality of guns in America in your very lap.
Other schools, like Anne Arundel County Public Schools, say they are not endorsing nor sanctioning another walkout in any way.
The following letter was sent out to parents in the area from George Arlotto, the Superintendent:
Harford County Schools are also following suit by not allowing students to take part in a walkout. They sent WMAR-2 News the following statement.
Our position has not changed regarding walkouts. To clarify, we do not and have not banned students from walking out of the building. As noted previously, we do not condone a walkout. On April 20, 2018, each middle and high school is prepared to honor those lives lost in school shootings with a moment of reflection and silence prior to the start of the instructional day.
Carroll County Schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie explained his decision not to support students walking out this time:
Dear CCPS Community,
We are currently aware that some students across the nation and in Carroll County may be planning a school walkout on Friday, April 20, 2018, to protest school violence. This would be the third such protest day planned this semester. As many of you are aware, on March 14, 2018, I allowed student-initiated remembrance activities to support the families of the victims affected by the Florida school shooting.
It is important for our community to know that in part because of those student-led activities, local government and state delegation officials have listened to the message and have taken immediate steps to deter school violence in Carroll County. Through our partnership with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and the Board of County Commissioners, we have increased the presence of law enforcement officers in our schools. School administrators have attended a school safety seminar conducted by CCPS Supervisor of School Security Duane Williams and Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees. Furthermore, the Board of Education has purchased new 800 megahertz radios for all of our schools that allow direct communication between school administrators and Carroll County Emergency Management Services. Additionally, a new bill from the recent session of the Maryland General Assembly addressing school security has been signed into law by Governor Hogan. Carroll County Public Schools will comply with this new law immediately.
It is also my strong feeling that since March 14, 2018, student-planned protests have become very political and have expanded to include other issues above and beyond school violence. My assessment of these protests is that they will be detrimental to the learning environment.
Therefore, my direction to school leaders and my expectation of students is that April 20, 2018 will be a normal school day in which students will remain in class and focus on their studies. I want our students and families to know that conduct that disrupts school operations, such as a student walkout, is not acceptable and will be addressed in accordance with our code of conduct. I encourage you to talk to your child(ren) about how they may be feeling about this topic.
As always, thank you for your continued support of Carroll County Public Schools.
Superintendent of Schools
In Baltimore County, schools officials say that students will need their parent's approval before they are able to be a part of the walkout:
Baltimore County Public Schools supports students’ rights to express themselves, but also has a responsibility for student safety and instruction. On-campus activities allow us to protect students, while off-campus activities or demonstrations do not. To ensure student safety and minimal disruption of classes, students leaving campus without parental approval will face appropriate consequences as outlined in our student handbook.
Howard County, Baltimore City, and Cecil County Schools have told WMAR-2 News they are allowing students to do a walkout.
The interim Superintendent for Howard County schools also sent a letter home to families to discuss the walkout. The letter says that as Superintendent his top priority is to ensure the safety of children in staff in every school.
"The fear that our children may feel as a result of national violence in and around our schools makes me empathetic to their concerns and supportive of their efforts. I support their spirit to enact positive change and am proud of the responsible, civil approach that Howard County students have practiced through these events. Additionally, my responsibility as Superintendent requires me to take advantage of all available time for instruction so that our students are well prepared for the path that lays before them."
Also in the letter, it gives parents resources to help them speak with their kids about traumatic events and encourage them to reach out to a trusted adult in their school. Click here to see those resources.
Baltimore City Schools sent the following statement:
Our students have important things to say about the impact of gun violence, and City Schools encourages them to make themselves heard about an issue that affects them profoundly. Our principals, particularly at middle and high schools, are making spaces and time available in their buildings for students to discuss the issue and to identify productive ways to advance their priorities.
Cecil County Schools said they will not discipline students who participate in the walkout and all schools in their area have a plan.