Despite warnings that their actions could result in punishment up to suspension, a group of West Liberty-Salem students said Monday night they plan to take part in the 17-minute nationwide walkout Wednesday morning to mark the one-month anniversary of the Florida school shooting.
EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
“We are Walking Out Regardless,” Nicholas Williams, one of the organizers of the student group, wrote in a text message late Monday after district Superintendent Kraig Hissong issued an open letter to the community warning that students would be punished if they participated in the walkout.
The nationwide walkout is being promoted by the Women’s March Youth Empower movement in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting of Feb. 14 and more specifically, the U.S. Congress’ seemingly unwillingness to address gun control.
Williams said he did not wish to make a formal statement following the superintendent’s letter, but clarified some of the students’ positions in a telephone conversation earlier in the day.
Despite claims that the student group is being manipulated by a small group of teachers or that teachers have invited or driven students to anti-gun protests, Williams stated that is not the case.
“This is strictly a student-led movement,” he said. “We are acting on where we are as students on this issue. There have been false rumors about teachers, but we have never been pressured by teachers or invited to take part in anything.”
Hissong’s letter stated that the district would treat any student who left their assigned classroom at 10 a.m. — when the nationwide walkout is scheduled to take place — according to student disciplinary procedures for leaving a classroom without permission.
“First and foremost, our responsibility is to provide a safe and secure learning environment which embraces student diversity while fostering a sense of unity and cooperation among our students. We do not feel that the school district campus is the correct environment for political demonstrations as we aim to remain politically neutral,”
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the superintendent wrote.