ATLANTA — In the wake of a deadly mass shooting at a south Florida high school, students across the nation, including right here in metro Atlanta, are staging peaceful protests and demanding action so there will never be another mass shooting in American classrooms.
On March 14, students will hold a 17-minute walkout during the school day – one minute for each of the 17 lives taken in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
11Alive contacted 16 school districts across the metro Atlanta area to ask how they plan to handle the walkout demonstrations. Here are the districts' responses.More on the planned walkout dates
APS has coordinated with students to hold structured, pre-approved activities beginning at 10 a.m..
Examples of schools holding special programs include Inman Middle School, Grady High School and Washington High School, are some of the schools holding special programs
At 10 a.m., a student-led program over the intercom will take place in support of the families that lost loved ones in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen seconds of silence will follow the program.
"We respect students’ rights to political speech and to assemble, but also are strongly committed to ensuring such activities don’t disrupt the education of their classmates," the district said in a statement. "In anticipation that our students will want to join in the National event, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower directed all of our high school Principals to assist their school’s student government leaders in planning student-led observances.
These events will be held at the same time as the National event from approximately 10 to 10:17 a.m. on March 14. While student led, the events will be supervised by school administrators and CCSD School Police Officers to ensure safety and security."
The school district said it will support the efforts of students and staff to participate in peaceful demonstrations.
"I join with other members of CCPS leadership in a belief that it is important to give our students a voice concerning critical matters that have a direct impact on their lives," Superintendent Morcease Beasley said in a statement. "They should be allowed an opportunity to participate in the democratic process to display their opinions within an instructional non-disruptive experience."
In addition, the superintendent said school principals have been directed to to support any events, and every effort will be made to perform due diligence to ensure a safe and secure environment. No students will be penalized for participating in any demonstration.
The Cobb County School District said it will work with students to identify the best methods to accomplish the "demonstration of empathy" without interruption of normal school operation.
For example, the district said, at Walton High School, staff is offering to have a special program at 7:50 a.m. before the start of the school day.
Will be included as part of the school day.
Read a letter to parents from Superintendent, Dr. R. Stephen Green:
Students across the nation, including some of our own students, have staged peaceful protests in response to the Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy in Florida and the discussion around gun control legislation during the past few days.
We can expect similar demonstrations in the days ahead, including national protests set for March 14, March 24 and April 20.
The DeKalb County School District supports students’ Constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and free expression. However, our top priority is to support the academic and social emotional needs of our students while maintaining a safe and orderly environment for all students and staff. We also respect those students who choose not to participate in these planned events.
If a student walkout or protest happens in one of our schools, we will allow the students to peacefully protest. We encourage our students to be respectful. Please understand that the Student Code of Conduct remains in place and will be enforced during these times. We will not tolerate behavior that disrupts school operations or threatens the safety and order of our schools.
It can be a teachable moment where students can demonstrate their First Amendment right to be heard, knowing there are natural consequences to civil disobedience.
If your child is feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to your school administrator for support and guidance. We are here for our students and families during this turbulent time in our society.
Thank you for your continued support of your district and your school.
In a statement, the Douglas County School system said the district "will acknowledge our students’ right to protest in a civil and orderly manner. If our students walk out for a reasonable amount of time and return in an orderly fashion, there will be no consequences."
The district said the walkouts will be supervised and and will occur in an "orderly manner."
While the school district said it is not supporting walk-outs, Fayette County Public Schools said it does support students’ reasonable exercise of their constitutional rights around free expression.
"We encourage you to work with your students and staff to support those that want to honor the lives lost," the district said in a statement. "Some schools will hold special programs, like Lambert High School in Suwanee. They are doing a special 'Lunch n’ Learn.'
After initially warning parents students a walkout would count as an unexcused absence per their policy regarding absences and disruptions, the district appears to have reversed that decision.
Fulton County Schools now say they will adapt middle and high school students' schedules to provide opportunities to allow students to participate in March 14 walkout demonstrations.
“This is a learning opportunity for our students,” said Superintendent Jeff Rose. “The District will provide support to schools, ensuring a supervised environment. We will allow students to respectfully express their support for those impacted by the Parkland, Florida shooting.”
Hall County's school district said its school administrations have been discussing the issue of school shootings with leadership within their schools.
"By taking this approach of seeking input from our students as to steps that could be taken to make their schools safer, we hope to avoid any perceived need to have a walkout," the district said in a statement.
Will be included as part of the school day.
MARIETTA CITY SCHOOLS
"City of Marietta has special opportunities for students and also parents," the district said. "For example, Marietta High School is inviting parents and supporters to come out and stand outside their school campus."
As an alternative, principals and administrative teams at Paulding County’s five high schools said they are working with student leaders to develop activities tailored for each school.
"These activities may include dialogue among students and teachers, classroom lessons on how students may participate in formal civic engagement, opportunities for students to assemble before school hours at a designated location on campus, and several schools that will have students sign banners of support that will be sent to Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, Fla," the district said.
"We are not endorsing an unstructured walkout," the district said. "However, we respect the rights of our students and are working with those who choose to participate in a structured manner."