TAMPA BAY -- This morning, students across the country walked out of class for 17 minutes to remember and honor the 17 students who lost their lives at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month.
Below are responses from Tampa Bay-area school districts on their policies when it comes to students who walked out.
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY SCHOOLS ARE ON SPRING BREAK
HERNANDO COUNTY SCHOOLS ARE ON SPRING BREAK
RESPONSE FROM PASCO COUNTY:
As educators, our general focus is on instruction, and we can’t advocate continued disruptions during the school day or walkouts at this time. However, we recognize the impact of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting on students, staff and our community. We all want to feel safe and secure at school, and safety and security is our number one priority.
Since students have a right to free expression, and in an effort to provide a consistent response district-wide, we established guidelines to keep students safe on campus and to remain focused on learning with as little disruption to the school day as possible.
If at any point you feel that a situation is becoming disruptive, or a campus-wide movement, please contact your Assistant Superintendent immediately.
We wanted to share the following ideas and next steps with you.
---Wear the same color to show solidarity
---Moment of Silence
---Organized walk before or after school
---Handwritten letters of support to the students who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
---Laminated banners with messages of support that can be displayed at the school
---Additional Candlelight Vigils (organized by PTSA)
---Work with student leadership groups
---Letters to elected officials
RESPONSE FROM PINELLAS COUNTY
Since the Parkland tragedy district leaders have encouraged schools and teachers to make student activism an authentic learning opportunity. This could include a classroom lesson or activity.
In preparation for the anticipated student-led event in support of victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on March 14, the district issued the below guidance to principals:
---At the middle and high school levels, involve student leaders in the development of the plan.
---Ensure staff understand their role is to ensure the safety of all students who participate and those who do not.
---Respect the right of students to participate or not.
---Designate an appropriate location for students choosing to participate and any other expectations necessary to ensure a safe and peaceful expression of support by students.
---Tell students that any other form of student-led support planned must take place during non-instructional times and with principal’s approval.
---Do not allow community members or outside organizations on campus to participate in the student-led event.
Students will not be disciplined if they participate.
RESPONSE FROM POLK COUNTY
Our students are deciding whether they want to take part in such demonstrations and when they want to conduct them. We are allowing students an opportunity to express themselves while also maintaining a safe learning environment.
Reporters have inquired about whether they are allowed on campus to cover these demonstrations. Please be advised that our campuses are secure sites, and we are not allowing such access at this time.
Although the school district is not sanctioning or authorizing student walkouts, we’ve provided guidance to our principals should their students wish to take part in such demonstrations.
We’ve encouraged them to work with their student government associations to help them organize demonstrations. However, some of these are student-led demonstrations where our school staff members are simply making sure that students are safe and supervised if they chose to do them.
Students want to be heard during this time, and we should give them a forum to speak. Some principals are creating events in which students provide suggestions for keeping their campuses safe.
In the past weeks, some of these demonstrations have taken place. I am aware of events taking place at Lake Marion Creek, Mulberry High, Lake Region High, Kathleen Middle, and Haines City High. They’ve taken a variety of forms: rallies, moments of silence, discussion forums, etc.
In some cases, the schools provided us with photos and information, which we’ve posted on social media. See the following links for more details:
RESPONSE FROM SARASOTA COUNTY
Sarasota County schools is supporting our students and allowing walkout observations to take place on March 14. These events are student-led – students at each school have developed plans to commemorate the national event. We want them to feel empowered to use their voice for change and to pay tribute to the lives lost in Parkland.
We will add additional districts as they respond.
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