District 201 students discouraged from participating in school walkout
What is the National School Walkout?
The National School Walkout is a 17-minute protest planned for 10 a.m. March 14 calling for stronger gun laws. March 14 is the one-month anniversary of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.
Where are students planning to participate?
Officials from at least 13 schools said their students wanted to participate in some way. The schools worked with students to develop plans for Wednesday, including:
- Alton High School: Students can walk outside for 17 minutes.
- Civic Memorial High School: Students will gather in the gym to honor the victims of the Parkland school shooting through a student-led activity. Then, the Bethalto Police Department will provide updated training for students about what they should do if there were ever an intruder at school.
- Collinsville High School: Students can walk outside for 17 minutes.
- Columbia High School: Students can walk outside for 17 minutes.
- Freeburg Community High School: With parent permission, students can walk outside for 17 minutes.
- Highland High School: With parent permission, students can walk outside for 17 minutes. Students have been asked not to bring signs or posters supporting political beliefs. Officers from the Highland Police Department will also be on campus Wednesday if students want to talk with them about school safety.
- Granite City High School: The names of the Parkland shooting victims will be read in a morning announcement followed by a moment of silence. Students planned an activity for their lunch periods to honor the victims. They will also sell T-shirts designed to bring awareness to school safety and treating people with kindness.
- Madison Junior and Senior High School: Students and staff are asked to wear all black Wednesday in honor of the victims. They will gather in the gym, where the victims’ names will be read, among other activities. Then, students and staff will march outside for 17 minutes. Each student will be provided a sign reading “#NeverAgain.” Another option for students is to stay in the gym for a “restorative peace circle” facilitated by professionals. According to studentpeacealliance.org, a peace circle involves talking about an event, including what happened, why and how it can be fixed.
- Mascoutah High School: With parent permission, students can assemble in the gym for 17 minutes.
- Roxana Senior High School: With parent permission, students can walk outside for 17 minutes.
- Sparta High School: Students can walk outside for 17 minutes.
- Triad High School: With parent permission, students can walk outside for 17 minutes.
- Wesclin High School: Students can walk outside for 17 minutes of silence.
Over the weekend, Superintendent John Pearson said he was not aware of a student-organized walkout planned for East Alton-Wood River Community High School. The administration sent permission slips home for parents to sign if students decide to participate on Wednesday, according to Pearson.
Superintendents also weren’t aware of any students planning activities for Carlyle High School or Coulterville High School as of Monday.
Some younger students are planning to participate.
At Collinsville Middle School, students can go outside Wednesday to read brief biographies of each of the victims of the Parkland school shooting and release balloons. Students who don’t want to participate will be supervised in the gym.
Coolidge Middle School students can expect a moment of silence after the morning announcements, which Granite City District 9 Superintendent Jim Greenwald said will lead to “teachable moments” in classrooms.
Granite City teachers at all levels have been encouraged to “use the issues facing our schools and our nation as learning opportunities, while remaining focused on the Board-approved curricula, keeping discussions age-appropriate, and without inserting political bias into instruction,” Greenwald wrote in a letter to parents. For kindergarten through sixth-grade classrooms, for instance, the discussion will be about kindness.
This list reflects the superintendents or principals who responded to the Belleville News-Democrat’s request for comment by press time.
Will students get in trouble?
Students in some schools could face punishment for leaving class Wednesday morning.
For O’Fallon Township High School students, it will be considered skipping, according to a letter O’Fallon District 203 Superintendent Darcy Benway sent to parents.
“OTHS District 203 supports a student’s Constitutional right to protest and to engage in peaceful assembly,” Benway wrote. “However, a school walkout-protest is an act of civil disobedience and, by definition, a violation of rules.”
Belleville District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier said the Belleville high schools will follow the district’s attendance policy on Wednesday; depending on how long students are out of class, they could receive a tardy or an unexcused absence.
At the schools requiring parents to sign permission slips, students would face consequences for leaving class without that permission. For Highland High School students, for example, it would be an unexcused absence and the punishment could include detention.
At Wesclin High School, Principal John Isenhower is asking students to wait until the afternoon to participate in the walkout to limit the potential class disruption; if they leave the building at any other time, it will be considered an unexcused absence.
Students can also face discipline for lingering in hallways or disrupting their class or others on Wednesday.
Many schools are encouraging parents to talk to their children about the potential consequences for walking out of class and about their safety in the wake of school shootings.