Local schools planning response to nationwide student walk-out - WSMV News 4

Local schools planning response to nationwide student walk-out

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As plans for a nationwide student walk-out honoring the victims of school shooting in Florida last month are making waves around the county, local school districts are pondering how best to respond to students as well as communicate their plan to parents. 

Should students be punished for leaving in the middle class or should teachers use the walk-out, planned for next Wednesday, as a teachable moment in the classroom? 

It's a question many school leaders are still trying to answer. 
Several Mid-state districts said they are letting individual school principals decide what's best for their school. 

One Nashville high school is using the planned protest on March 14 as an opportunity to teach and encourage students.
Next Wednesday at 10 a.m., some students at Overton High School are planning to leave class for 17 minutes in silent protest of gun violence.

They will be joining a nationwide movement meant to honor the 17 people killed in the Florida school shooting last month. 
“It’s the idea that this really isn’t a political issue, this isn’t something where it’s an issue of rights,” said Overton senior Shun Ahmed. "It’s so much more comforting seeing your principals and your teachers being supportive in this.  Because if we do this, who knows? This could spark a change for another school to do it and another school to do it.”

If students are going to miss class, educators at Overton say they want to make sure they learn something.
“I guess it’s kind of come up as a beautiful teaching moment in of itself," said Meredith McGinnis, an Overton High School teacher. "This month, I focused on activism, and to see it come up the way it has has been inspiring. I think it’s one of the best learning experiences that my students could have this year. You want, as a teacher, to see your teaching really meet the expectations that the world around [students] kind of sets.”
With safety in mind, administrators from Rutherford County and Williamson County Schools told News4 they are working to coordinate secure places for students inside and outside the school. 

Educators said they are alerting high school parents, as well as middle school parents like Pamela Boyer, about the event. 
“Protests and stuff have always made big change in our country, so it has benefits in that," Boyer said. "But I don’t know if middle schoolers are ready for that."
Boyer’s 6th-grade son attends Bellevue Middle School, and she said he understands why the walk-out is happening. 
“They have the auditorium set up as what they’re calling a 'safe place' just to keep things together, but they still get to make their statement and they’ll be talking about the issue and why it’s so important,” Boyer said.
If students don’t do the walkout peacefully, many districts say they could be punished. 

Overton High School Junior Ian Schneier says he realizes some of his peers may act out. 
“I would feel frustrated, but I believe that most of us who are doing this recognize that it is, in some ways, an act of civil disobedience and repercussions may come along with that,” Schneier said. “But I hope that most schools will see this and support this as an incredible opportunity to have those conversations and make a difference.” 
Metro Schools said if a student doesn’t go back to class after the protest, they could be charged with loitering. Others could get an unexcused absence. Students will still be expected to finish their classwork, officials said.

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