CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. – Chesterfield County schools have announced how they will handle students participating in the National School Walkout on March 14.
Students across the country are participating in the demonstration to honor the 17 victims killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and in an effort to stop gun violence and plea for stricter gun laws.
In a letter to families, Chesterfield school leaders say their intent is to be supportive of the student’s freedom of expression but provide a safe educational environment.
“During the past week, principals were asked to work with student leaders to identify safe alternatives to walking out of school on March 14,” read the letter. “We received several strong recommendations for supporting our students in a safe, supervised environment.”
During the March 14 demonstration, students plan on walking out of school at 10 a.m. and stand in the front of their school for 17 minutes, in honor of the Parkland school shooting victims.
School officials say they have developed a plan if a walkout does occur in their middle and high schools.
In the letter, school leaders say they will set up a safe, supervised location where students can:
- Have a student-led memorial service honoring those who lost their lives in the Florida shooting OR
- Have a student-led assembly about the importance of school safety
The specific locations of the safe spaces won’t be released for security reasons, but the locations will have administrative and staff supervision.
The school system says they have also asked the local police department for support during the demonstration.
“Community members, including parents, will not be able to participate in any walkout-related event on school property due to safety concerns,” the letter continued.
Staff members will not be allowed in participate in the demonstration, in compliance with school board policy. However, they will remain in a supervisory role during the event.
“Building leaders will not administer disciplinary consequences to those students who are genuine in expressing their position, elect to walk out to safe spaces identified by school administration and abide by student behavior expectations. However, these students will be marked as having an unexcused absence from class,” said school leaders in the letter.
Students who chose not to participate in the demonstration outside will be allowed to share their feelings through essays and/or poetry on message boards during breakfast/lunch.