Student Walkout to Protest School Violence

March 14, 2018


It’s been one month since the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — and students across the country are planning to pay tribute to the 17 people killed in the massacre.


Reportedly thousands of students and teachers are planning to walk out of their classrooms today to raise awareness about issues of school safety and the effect of gun violence. The nationwide march is set to happen at 10 a.m. and last 17 minutes.


Here’s what you need to know about the national school walkout on March 14:


When is the national school walkout day?


The #Enough! National School Walkout will take place on Wednesday, March 14 at 10 a.m. across time zones. The walkout will last 17 minutes — one minute for each person killed in the Florida school shooting.


Why is there a national school walkout on March 14?


The walkout is to commemorate the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.


The suspected shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was indicted last week on 17 counts of first-degree premeditated murder, and 17 counts of first-degree attempted murder. His lawyers also submitted paperwork last week to withdraw his not guilty plea.


The organizers of the March 14 walkout said they wanted this protest to be a call to action for Congress to pass gun control legislation, according to the event’s website.


“We view this work as part of an ongoing and decades-long movement for gun violence prevention, in honor of all victims of gun violence — from James Brady to Trayvon Martin to the 17 people killed in Parkland,” the Women’s March Youth Empower website wrote on its site.


Who is participating in the March 14 walkout?


If you’re a student, the Women’s March Youth Empower website has a tool to search for a walkout at your school. The website also includes resources for students, teachers, parents, and administration officials on how to have a safe and productive walkout.

But not all school districts are on board with the planned protest. Ahead of the proposed walkout, some schools have warned students against participating it it.


For those who aren’t students or teachers, the #Enough organizers are asking people to wear orange, which is associated with gun violence prevention, or stage workplace walkouts for 17 minutes, according to the Women’s March site.


What are your rights if you protest?


The 1969 Supreme Court ruling on the case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District makes it clear that students don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” But that does come with some caveats and complications.

  • First, it only applies to public schools. “This is because public schools are run by the government and private schools aren’t, and the First Amendment only controls what the government can and can’t do,” the ACLU explains on its “Know Your Rights” page. Students at private schools can be stopped from participating in protests like the #Enough National School walkout, and students should consult with their teachers and school administrators and know what the policies are regarding protests or absences.

  • Second, free speech in schools extends “as long as you don’t disrupt the functioning of the school or violate the school’s content-neutral policies,” the ACLU explains, and what is “disruptive” is contextual. If deemed disruptive, “schools can stop students from participating,” according to CNN.

  • Third, you can be punished for participating — not over what you are protesting, but for being absent from class. “The exact punishment you could face will vary by your state, school district, and school,” the ACLU explains. “Find out more by reading the policies of your school and school district. If you’re planning to miss a class or two, look at the policy for unexcused absences.” If planned ahead with parents, students may be able to be signed out of a class by a parent.

  • Finally, schools are mandated to be guardians to their students. “Schools stand in what’s known as loco parentis, so we don’t simply release our students into the ether,” Francisco Negron, the Chief Legal Officer at the National School Boards Association, told NPR. Negron issued guidance to schools ahead of the walkouts. “Chief among our recommendations is that to the extent possible, school districts should plan ahead and engage your students, parents, and stakeholders,” the checklist reads. Teachers also have a complex position when it comes to protesting; they can often protest on their own time, but not during class time, according to CNN.

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