Students allowed to walk out Wednesday, but will be marked tardy

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STORY BY SAM STYNEN

Students are able to walk out of school on March 14 and April 20 for Parkland victims and firearm awareness, however they will be marked tardy or absent, according to a memo from the Washoe County School District.

The Women’s March Youth EMPOWER group coordinated national walkouts called #ENOUGH and the #NationalSchoolWalkout. The first walkout will be held tomorrow at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes. The time reflects the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland Florida.

Wednesday’s walkout begins one minute before the end of third period. Participating students will miss the first 10 minutes of fourth period and will have to use the Swipe machines before returning to class. Students who do not return from the walkout will be marked absent.

According to the Instagram account McQueen_Student_Walkout, students participating in the walkout will gather in the East parking lot.

The second #NationalSchoolWalkout will be on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting that killed 13 students. The events that will happen locally are less clear, though an article in Time Magazine suggests it will be another 17-minute walkout.

There is also the national March For Our Lives event on Sat., March 24. The Reno march begins at 11:30 a.m. at downtown’s City Plaza. The aim of the event is to also draw awareness to gun violence in schools.

These events were all set up by students on social media, and organizations. None were arranged by school boards or school districts.

“They’re [students] taking matters into their own hands, advocating for stricter gun-control laws and more mental health resources for treating troubled peers,” according to the Time article.

Some students on McQueen’s campus reflect a sense of anxiety about recent gun violence in schools.

According to several McQueen students who manage the Instagram account McQueen_School_Walkout, gun violence has negatively impacted the culture of our schools. The students, who wished to remain anonymous, said it’s “jeopardized our safety for far too long” and schools should be “where we feel safest, not where we fear for our lives.”

While there has been some confusion about whether students are allowed to participate this Wednesday during the walkout, Washoe County School District will be allowing students to walk out for a peaceful protest.

Information from the district instructs teachers to “encourage [students] to stay in class, but do not stop them from leaving.”  

Students can leave and participate in the walk out, however, “they will be marked tardy or absent depending on the length of time they are gone.”

“If students decide to participate in the Walk Out event, allow them to peacefully assemble, conduct the activity of the Walk Out and return to class,” the district said.

How many students will actually participate in the walkout is uncertain.

In a survey done of 50 students from Wooster High School and 50 students from McQueen High School, 35 percent of the students said they are going to walk out because they agree with the movement. One percent of students say they are going to walk out, but don’t agree with the movement. Thirty-one percent say they agree with the movement, however are not going to walk out. And, 13 percent say they don’t agree with the movement and aren’t going to walkout.

Seventeen percent of the students say they are unaware of the walkouts or movement, and 3 percent of students say they will walkout just to miss class.

“The consequences that the WCSD has informed us of: if we are to attend, are completely just and fair,” the group of students said. “We believe that the WCSD, though not in full support of our peaceful assembly, has a moral ‘right’ to choose education over protest.”

As for teachers, they too can participate, but they must take time off.

“They are district employees and cannot participate in such events,” the district said. “If you [referring to administration] have employees who are requesting time off (either ESP or certified), they must use personal leave.”

Several teachers interviewed didn’t feel comfortable commenting on the districts decisions. However, when asked about the students’ decision to walk out, the teachers all asked what’s next after the walk out.

“It seems to me more productive to spend that time contacting lawmakers,” history teacher Phil Kaiser said. “Why not do an activity during lunch, for example sending emails to senators.”

None of the teachers interviewed said they were going to walk out.

“If teachers aren’t going to walk out, they could at least raise awareness,” McQueen student teacher David Zavesky said. “Whatever it takes to get the message across.”

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