While thousands of students across the United States are expected to participate in the National School Walkout next week to protest gun violence, the Muscogee County School District is planning an alternative activity.
MCSD’s “Speak up! Sit In” event will be a video conference featuring students representing each middle and high school along with state legislators representing the Columbus area.
The National School Walkout is scheduled for March 14 at 10 a.m. in every American time zone. Organizers are encouraging students to leave their class at that time for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people killed in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
From 9 to 9:45 a.m. March 14, MCSD will conduct its alternative activity in the Muscogee County Public Education Center. The session will be streamed live through a secure channel to each middle and high school classroom in the district. The public will be able to view the session on the MCSD’s Facebook page.
“This is clearly an issue of great importance to many students nationwide, including our own,” MCSD superintendent David Lewis said in the district’s news release Wednesday. “However, an outdoor walk-out on a designated date and appointed time is obviously a safety concern in itself. Therefore, with the help of our participating local state legislative delegation members, we have developed a civics engagement activity that we believe will provide students with a safe and appropriate forum in which to express their thoughts and concerns.”
After the video conference, MCSD middle and high school students and teachers will be allowed to write letters of support to those affected by the Florida school shooting. The letters will be collected and forwarded to Stoneman Douglas.
“This session is the only district-approved exercise that will take place regarding any of the proposed walkouts surfacing in the news,” MCSD says in the news release. “Unapproved exercises will be considered a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Students who participate in unapproved exercises will face immediate disciplinary action.”
MCSD communications director Mercedes Parham told the Ledger-Enquirer, “The punishment would be determined by the school administrators, if that should arise.”
Parents and guardians who don’t want their children to participate in the “Speak Up! Sit In” activity may opt out. Each MCSD middle and high school will provide those students with alternative activities during the session. A letter will be sent to parents and guardians explaining how to opt out.
“We hope our students will find this activity meaningful and take advantage of the opportunity to engage in an exercise aligned with our Civics and American Government lessons,” Lewis said. “We believe this will inspire and equip our students to become active and productive citizens in a safe and productive manner.”