Local districts prepare for walkouts - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Local districts prepare for walkouts

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Students across America are planning to walk out of class on Wednesday as part of a national protest supporting stricter gun laws. The "ENOUGH: National School Walkout" is planned for 10:00 a.m. Wednesday across every time zone. Students who plan to participate will leave class for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 lives lost last month at a mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Wednesday marks the one month anniversary of the shooting.

The students are getting help coordinating their protests from the progressive Women's March organization which has held anti-Trump rallies in Washington D.C. for the past two years. 

A statement posted on the group's website declares, "Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship." 

An accompanying map shows pinpoints of schools across the US that plan to participate, including 11 elementary, middle and high schools in Southern Colorado.

Centennial High School Senior Kevin Hughes organized the walkout at his school.

"It's sad when I go home and I turn on the news and I'm not surprised to see that there's been a mass shooting somewhere in this country," Hughes said.

His idea caught on very quickly. More than 800 people signed petitions that he and and a handful of students circulated. He anticipates that teachers, staff and parents will join the students during the walkout.

"It's a lot easier than I thought to put aside political differences and to bring everyone together. I was surprised to see how man kids actively said yea, I want to help you start this," Hughes said.

Student Body President Daniel Casillas said the council plans to attend the walk out.  However, he wants it to be known that this was an organic movement and not led by the student council.

"Within our school, we have a lot of belief that  there should be more control over just protecting our students," Casillas said.

The events are scheduled to last 17 minutes, in honor of the seventeen students killed last month in Parkland, Florida. Centennial High Junior Alanna Jackson said after the students leave their classrooms, they plan to gather on the west lawn in front of the school.

"Then we're actually going to honor the 17 students, read something about them and then just promote our message which is student empowerment, being more aware of school safety and actively showing that we should take action for such a prevalent issue."

Charlotte Macaluso, Superintendent of Schools for Pueblo District 60, sent a letter to principals stating that their schools should implement a designated "intermission" from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. to allow students who wish to join the walkout to participate. 

"Students will not be disciplined for exercising their freedom of expression or participating in the event during the designated time," Macaluso wrote. "Students who create a disruption, leave campus, engage in detrimental behavior or are in violation of the code of conduct may face disciplinary action."

Tim Miller, the assistant superintendent of Manitou Springs School District 14, said that their primary interest will be student safety.  While the district does not endorse or condone the event, they will have staff at Manitou Springs High School stationed outdoors to supervise the students who join the walkout.  

Miller doesn't anticipate any disciplinary issues, so long as the students keep to the 17 minute time limit they've announced.  Should they leave campus for the day, then they could face truancy violations.  Middle and elementary school students must be accompanied by a parent if they wish to participate.

Julie Stephen, public information officer for Lewis-Palmer School District 38 in Monument said that principals at their schools have sent home a letter to parents describing how they plan to handle any walkouts. She believes the walkouts will take place indoors at the school auditorium for security purposes.

Walt Cooper, the superintendent at Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, said that students who participate will not risk disciplinary action. However, elementary school students will need to be signed out by their parent. Like the schools in Pueblo and Manitou Springs, Cooper said D12 students who abuse the walkout and skip class could be disciplined for truancy.

In Falcon School District 49, an email to parents at Sand Creek High School indicated that teachers will continue to hold classes as planned, but students will not be penalized if they participated in a walkout.

"It is part of our culture to respect and care for each other, so we intend to honor the right of our students to express their concerns through peaceful demonstrations, including a planned walkout on March 14th," wrote campus director Audra Lane.

She goes on to explain that students who choose to leave will need to make up their assignments on their own.

We respect the thought and compassion our students are already displaying through their words and actions. Should they choose to do more, we support their learning and leadership. 

"We will not penalize students who participate, but neither will we make special accommodations to reteach," Lane wrote.  "We will do our best to maintain a calm environment and to minimize distractions."

In Colorado Springs School District 11, Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Gledich sent two separate letters parents, one for high school students and the other for middle and elementary school parents. Like Falcon, D-11 will continue with classes for those students who do not wish to join the protest.

"We are proud that some of our students want to exercise their First Amendment rights to express their views on this important topic," Gledich wrote.  "We also recognize that some students may not want to participate in a walkout and would prefer to stay in class. We want to ensure that all students feel safe and respected, no matter what they choose to do."

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