Schools plan assemblies in lieu of Parkland walkouts

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While students across the nation are planning Wednesday walkouts to commemorate a deadly school shooting in Florida, assemblies to mourn the 17 victims are planned at Wilson County’s public high schools.

Wilson County Schools spokeswoman Amber Lynch said several high-schoolers had asked officials if they would be allowed to participate in the national walkouts.

“Wilson County Schools’ Board Policy 6400 prohibits protests,” Lynch said, “however, school officials are supportive of an assembly in the high schools where students will gather to remember those affected by the violence.”

Students at Beddingfield, Hunt and Fike high schools will hold Day of Remembrance assemblies on Wednesday in lieu of walkouts.

“The assembly is a somber event to remember the victims and unite staff and students in efforts to keep the school safe,” Lynch said. “Members of law enforcement have been invited to give the principals an opportunity to thank them for their service.”

School principals and student government presidents from the schools will speak at the assemblies.

According to Lynch, student governments were involved in the planning process.

Attendance at the assemblies will be optional. Students who would prefer not to attend will be able to remain in their classrooms with teachers.

During the lunch hour, students at the schools will be able to place their signatures on a banner pledging to keep their school safe.

The two early colleges in the district, the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology and Wilson Early College Academy, are on spring break at the time of the planned assemblies. Similar events will be held at WAAT and the early college on March 20 after students have returned to classes.

Walkouts are scheduled to mark 30 days since a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 people. The school shooting has sparked grassroots demonstrations, with many students calling for stricter gun control measures.

Public high school students enjoy free speech rights under the First Amendment so long as their activities do not cause disruption. Students can be disciplined for missing class.

In an open letter to school administrators and public officials from the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, ACLU state legal director Chris Brook and staff attorney Sneha Shah suggest that schools “create opportunities for open dialogue where students with different viewpoints can have meaningful discussions.”