Richmond Public Schools doesn’t want students walking out. This is what they’re planning instead.

Photo by Erin Edgerton

Youth activists are encouraging students and faculty across the country to walk out of school for 17 minutes to recognize the victims of the Florida shooting last month. Richmond area school districts are creating policy to prepare for the event.

Student-activists are working with Women’s March Youth, the group behind the anti-Trump Women’s March in January 2017, to organize the “ENOUGH: National School Walkout,” scheduled for March 14.

The event is youth-led, with a goal of demanding action from Congress to keep young people safe from gun violence in schools, streets, homes and places of worship.

Many schools addressed student plans to participate in the event with threats of suspension. In a statement provided to the CT, Richmond Public Schools said a large number of students walking off campus may pose a significant safety risk. RPS did not clarify when asked what consequences students could face for participating in walkouts.

The statement also said RPS principals are working to find ways students can honor the victims and share their views on gun control peacefully, while remaining on campus on March 14.

Katie Page, a senior at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s school, a public school in Richmond for government and international studies, said her school’s administration told students who intend to participate they will receive an unexcused tardy.

Although Maggie Walker does not operate under RPS rules, other school districts in the state have expressed they will enforce this same consequence such as Chesterfield County Public Schools. Henrico County Schools are allowing students to participate, but are using safety precautions, like taking attendance before and after the event and requiring parental permission slips for middle schools students.

Students at Maggie Walker don’t have to take their final exams if they have less than a certain number of tardies. The walkout could push many upperclass students over that threshold, Page said. But at least half of the students in each of her classes are planning to participate — and so is she.

“While usually, we are all united over how much we hate school,” Page said, “we’re uniting now over a much more important issue to prove to the government that young people have a voice and are determined to share it in order to make change for the better.”

More than 175 College Admission Offices, including Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have promised not to penalize students who are disciplined for participating in gun protests.

Another school walkout is planned for Virginia on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.

RPS is encouraging all students, staff, families, and community members to attend the “RPS Non-Violence March on the Capital” on Saturday, March 24, at 10 a.m., the same day of the national march in Washington, DC in solidarity with those impacted by the Stoneman Douglas shooting.

“This march will be an opportunity for the entire RPS family to show support for the victims and their families, and to voice solutions for gun control and school safety,” Bowers’ statement said. “Many local and state officials are expected to be in attendance to hear directly from our young people regarding school safety and gun control laws.”

SaraRose Martin, News Editor

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