The West Liberty-Salem school shooting victim and Clark and Champaign County school leaders hope students won’t walk out of classrooms Wednesday and instead honor victims of a Florida high school shooting differently.
But at least a handful of West Liberty students told the Springfield News-Sun they plan on walking out to show support and call for reform.
Students who decide to do so will face consequences, West Liberty Superintendent Kraig Hissong and several other local school leaders said.
Addy Wilson, a West Liberty senior, said she and her friends will walk out at 10 a.m. to support a national movement calling for gun reform following the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting.
“I believe right now that I will get two detentions,” Wilson said. “I am willing to take that for something I believe in.”
More students had expressed interest in taking part before administrators alerted students that they would be punished, she said.
“We are trying to support the kids from Parkland,” she said. “The area that we are in, this is a small conservative school and we are not going to allow our voices to not be heard.”
The walkout is political, Hissong said, and the school’s campus isn’t a place for those types of demonstrations.
“It is not in the best interest of the school district to endorse any political movement,” Hissong said. “It feels that we are letter to not to have demonstrations on our premises.”
Logan Cole, the victim of the West Liberty-Salem high school shooting last year, took to social media to speak out against the planned demonstrations. Instead, he’ll participate in a memorial service during lunch and homeroom.
“I invite all WL-S students, no matter your political views, to attend our memorial service for the Florida shooting victims … I feel that it is a good alternative to honor the victims of the shooting in a non-political way,” Cole said.
The school is allowing Logan to have his event in the gymnasium because it’s non-political, Hissong said, and it’s safer for students to be indoors.
The walkout will be counted as an unexcused absence, Hissong said.
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“Additional disciplinary action could occur based on individual student behavior and disruptions,” a letter from Hissong says. “Discipline could range from a detention to possible suspension/expulsion depending as warranted.”
Most participants will receive detention, Hissong said, and suspensions likely will only apply to students who don’t remain peaceful.
Springfield City School District and the Springfield-Clark County Career Technology Center will host moments of silence throughout the day for each of the victims in hopes that students will remain in school where they are considered safe. West Liberty-Salem will host a small memorial service for students during a lunch period.
“The Springfield City School District supports thoughtful discourse and freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Superintendent Bob Hill said. “The district administration worked with the student leadership team at the high school to take a proactive stance on the nationally promoted school walkout to protest school safety.”
As classes begin on Wednesday, an announcement will be made throughout the high school asking everyone to participate in a 17-second moment of silence.
During the school day, the district is responsible for the safety of students, Hill said, and walking out of class is considered unsafe. Therefore any student that decides to leave class is subject to discipline.
“If a student were to leave the building without permission, the student would be in violation of the student code of conduct and would face appropriate consequences,” Hill said.
CTC students haven’t directly expressed intentions of walking out, Director Michelle Patrick said. The school plans on holding moments of silence for the victims.
“It’s a great idea and helps bring to light any student’s concerns,” Patrick said. “Having a mass exodus is not always safe and this way we can recognize their social rights movement and keep our student’s safe.”
Leaders at Tecumseh Middle School and high school will host events throughout the day, Superintendent Norm Glismann
Global Impact STEM Academy Director Josh Jennings, Northeastern Superintendent John Kronour and Urbana Superintendent Charlies Theil all said they haven’t heard of students planning to protest.
Theil said students who do walk out could face punishment.
“Students have the right to assemble peaceably as long as there is no disruption of the educational program of a school, he said. “Students who leave class or the school without permission may be assigned disciplinary consequences.”
The Springfield News-Sun provides in-depth school safety coverage, including recent stories examining security upgrades after a shooting last year at West Liberty-Salem and health inspection results.