GCS plans alternative events to student walkout

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From signing cards for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students to holding moments of silence for the victims of the deadly Parkland, Fla., school shooting to school assemblies encouraging unity and talk about student responsibility in school safety, middle and high schools in Greenville County have planned student-determined and student-led events on Wednesday, March 14.

There had been a call for a nationwide school walkout to push for increased school safety and stronger gun control.

GCS middle and high school principals worked with their student leadership to come up with alternative ways to express their feelings and to remember the 17 victims. They include the following activities:

  • Signing banners to pledge an end to school violence.
  • Walking into the hallways at 10 a.m. and sitting silently for 17 minutes while the names of the MSDH victims are read aloud. At another school, students can go into the hallway and lock arms with other students to form a circle around the inside of the school.
  • Students can wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school colors and take photos as a student body.
  • Displaying 17 desks in the main hallway with pictures and names of the victims.
  • Opening the media center at lunchtime for students to write emails to lawmakers.
  • Students will have the opportunity to write letters to survivors or lawmakers.
  • “Walk Up” not “Walk Out.” Students will be encouraged to reach out to someone who is sitting alone or whom they have never met.
  • Using the website “Answer Garden” to create a kindness word cloud.
  • Writing thank you cards to first responders.
  • Holding a schoolwide assembly to encourage unity. Choruses will perform and students will share messages of kindness.
  • Starting a 17-day fundraiser to an established account for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
  • Holding a “blackout” to honor victims.
  • Holding an optional student-led assembly to share information researched about Florida victims and talk about student responsibility in school safety.

The district’s primary concern about a walkout hinges on safety. District officials said they are particularly concerned about the opportunity the gathering would present someone in an unstable frame of mind. In addition, a walkout in support of gun reform legislation could provoke a simultaneous walkout in support of gun ownership rights, which could lead to unrest at school. The school district said properly staffing this event at all locations would be challenging both for it and law enforcement.

Discipline will depend on how the student handles himself or herself, whether they are seriously disruptive, and how they interact with other students and adults during the protest, the district said. If students quietly walk out for the 17 minutes and then return to class, they will not be counted absent, district officials said. They will be cited for cutting class. In middle and high school, attendance is taken each period.

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