Some teachers and students in the Philadelphia region are expected to walk out of their schools for 17 minutes Wednesday, the one-month anniversary of the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., to demand that Congress take action to better protect the public from gun violence.
Nationally, some schools have threatened to suspend students for participating, while others have supported the right to walk out. Philadelphia schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. told parents that participating students will not be disciplined — but that they should return to class afterward. Some students have urged Hite to let them protest throughout the day.
“The work to improve school safety is more than 17 minutes and more than a march,” students from 13 schools and the Philadelphia Student Union wrote in a letter to Hite. “We feel that by limiting us to only 17 minutes, our voices are actively being silenced.”
In North Jersey, the Sayreville school district has said it plans to suspend students who walk out. That has drawn ire from the American Civil Liberties Union, which said “districts should embrace moments like this to teach the importance of civic engagement and democracy.”
.@ACLUNJ denounces Sayreville's plans to suspend students who participate in Wednesday's walkout. This should be a teaching moment, not a time for discipline. Students, we support you & want to hear from you if you're punished for your political expression https://t.co/xxRXfUdb5c
— Tess Borden (@TessBorden) March 12, 2018
It’s not yet clear precisely how many local schools will take part in the walkout. Some participating include Science Leadership Academy, Franklin Learning Center, Germantown Friends School, and Lower Merion High School.
In Philadelphia, Holy Family University has said it supports students and staff walking out.
HFU supports on-campus community members who choose to participate in the peaceful and meaningful 17-minute #NationalSchoolWalkout on March 14 at 10 am. The Walkout honors the 17 students and staff killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland, FL. pic.twitter.com/uQt9kanlgP
— Holy Family U. (@HolyFamilyU) March 5, 2018
The walkout will be followed by a March for Our Lives rally on March 24 in Washington, Philadelphia, and other cities, and another student walkout on April 20, the 20th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting in Colorado.
Some school-safety protests have already occurred. At Cherry Hill High School East, students walked out two weeks ago over the suspension of Timothy Locke, a teacher who had expressed his fear that a crime similar to the Parkland massacre could happen at the school. The school is organizing a walk for students Wednesday.
The outcry over the shooting in Parkland, a largely white and wealthy suburb northwest of Fort Lauderdale, has also raised questions of why everyday gun violence in communities of color in cities like Philadelphia hasn’t received the same attention.
“There’s just a disconnect — when something happens in the white community, the black community is expected to support them, but people don’t stand up for the black community,” Tatiana Amaya, a student at Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker, told my colleague Kristen Graham. “The focus isn’t ‘What can we do to make black and brown kids feel safe in school?’ ”
Others have acknowledged the unequal treatment but encouraged people to join the walkouts. Columnist Jenice Armstrong plans to be at Germantown Friends School.
Keep an eye on our reporters’ feeds on Wednesday for live coverage:
- Kristen Graham in Philly
- Helen Ubiñas in Philly
- Jenice Armstrong in Philly
- Kathy Boccella in Lower Merion
- Avalon Zoppo in Cherry Hill