WALLA WALLA, Washington — Students across the nation have exercised their first amendment rights in various protests following a school shooting in Parkland, Florida that resulted in the deaths of 17 young people. Organizers around the country are looking to continue the movement by calling for a National School Walkout on March 14 in order to address gun violence in schools and push lawmakers to make changes.
Social media has been swirling with talk of the national school walkout, and Walla Walla is no exception. “While public schools and their employees are discouraged from participating in political activism during the school day, Walla Walla Public Schools recognizes first amendment/free speech rights of students,” the district said in a statement. “History has taught us the importance of civic engagement and peaceful activism; many such activities having shaped the fabric of our great nation over its nearly 250-year history.”
Students at Walla Walla High School will not be marked absent or tardy as long as they adhere to the time frame and behavior expectations. At the middle and elementary school levels, schools will be scheduling their required monthly safety drill or will be holding brief assemblies to reinforce school safety and reporting measures with students.
Walla Walla Public Schools Superintendent Wade Smith says more students at Wa-Hi seem to be eyeing another organized protest day (March 24), but there is still some interest in the March 14 date, which is why the district is sending out the statement to parents. All in all, he says students would only miss about 10 minutes of class time because it would occur between school periods for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims in Parkland. While Smith doesn’t encourage students to skip out on school, he also says his staff is not going to suppress the students’ right to peacefully protest.
“This is not a district-sponsored activity,” writes WWPS. “Students who choose to participate will be expected to make up any work missed during the last few minutes of 3rd period and the first few minutes of 4th period. We encourage you to talk to your high school student about their potential participation. If a decision is made to participate, please reinforce the time, behavior, and missed-work expectations.”
Organizers have called for the walkout to happen at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes — one minute for each life lost.