DeKalb County Schools will not stop walk-outs over gun violence
This story has been updated.
DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Stephen Green said the school district will not try to stop students from walking out of class to protest gun violence.
Clare Schexnyder, a Decatur mom, is helping to organize a walk out at schools nation wide at 10 a.m. on March 14. People are also encouraged to walk out of work and their homes during this time as a show of support. The event is being held in coordination with organizers from the Women’s March. The planned walk out will last 17 minutes representing the 17 lives lost during a Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
A letter from Green to parents said other walk outs may occur on March 24 and April 20. He said school officials will not stand in the way of students who want to participate, provided it is done respectfully and that students who don’t want to participate are not forced to. He called the protests a “teachable moment.”
“The DeKalb County School District supports students’ Constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and free expression, Green wrote. “However, our top priority is to support the academic and social emotional needs of our students while maintaining a safe and orderly environment for all students and staff. We also respect those students who choose not to participate in these planned events. If a student walkout or protest happens in one of our schools, we will allow the students to peacefully protest. We encourage our students to be respectful. Please understand that the Student Code of Conduct remains in place and will be enforced during these times. We will not tolerate behavior that disrupts school operations or threatens the safety and order of our schools.”
A spokesperson for the letter said that Green’s remarks applied to elementary and middle school students who want to participate, as well as high school students. Teachers who walk out will not be penalized, the spokesperson said.
City Schools of Decatur and Atlanta Public Schools are on winter break this week and have been unavailable for comment about how they plan to deal with the planned protests. Atlanta City Council member Natalyn Archibong said that the City Council on Feb. 19 approved a resolution establishing a planning committee “to provide recommendations on how the City of Atlanta can participate in the March for Our Lives movement to end gun violence in our schools.”
A national March for Our Lives rally is scheduled for Washington, D.C. on March 24, 2018, a press release from Archibong’s office says.
“I introduced this resolution to provide a vehicle for the City of Atlanta to engage a group of community stakeholders to make recommendations for Atlanta’s role as a participant in this national movement,” she said in the press release. “The City of Atlanta has a rich and longstanding history of student activism including the Atlanta Student Movement that helped break down barriers of segregation in this city. This resolution shows that Atlanta and this city council fully supports the March for Our Lives movement.”
Here is Superintendent’s Green’s letter to parents: