Students walking out of class Friday in the latest youth-led event to push for gun reform may pay a big price — like losing prom.
According to scattered reports on social media and in local papers, some school districts have threatened to retaliate against students who participate in the National School Walkout to mark the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. The event was by organized by Lane Murdoch, a 16-year-old who grew up near Sandy Hook Elementary School, scene of the 2012 gun massacre that left 20 children and six adults dead.
Per the organizing website, there were over 2,600 walkouts planned on Friday, and at least one in every state. At 10 a.m. local time, students walked out of class and stood for 47 seconds of silence, one second for each person under the age of 20 who is shot each day in the U.S. Thousands went to Washington, D.C.. for the event, calling on Congress to end gun violence.
But there was less school support for this event than the March 14 walkout organized by Parkland student survivors.
At schools in Champaign, Illinois, 135 miles south of Chicago, students were told they’d be marked truant if they walked out of the classroom on Friday. That would also mean they would be placed on social probation, which would bar them from purchasing tickets to prom.
Administrators for Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, California, sent a letter to parents this week, informing them of an Instagram account @santaanawalkout and wordpress site, which students were using to organize “a city-wide walkout/demonstration in collaboration with other Santa Ana schools to coincide with the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.”
“To be clear: Friday’s walkout is not a school-sanctioned event, and students who choose to leave their class on Friday will be assigned behavior consequences in accordance with being truant from school/class,” the letter stated. Students with uncleared behavior demerits will be unable to attend extracurricular school activities, like prom, and their own graduation.
Students from Seaford Senior High School in Delaware were also told that they might not be allowed to attend prom, which is planned for this Saturday, if they took part in the walkout.
Seniors at Dixon High School in Sauk Valley, Illinois, are also getting ready to attend prom on Saturday — but if they walk out of class on Friday, they won’t be allowed to attend. “According to our handbook, if a junior or senior would miss school the day before prom, they would not be allowed to attend,” Dixon High School Principal Mike Grady told SaukValley.com
On March 14, the first student walkout, 500 students in Saratoga Springs, Florida, walked out of class, with the blessing of their school administrators. Not this time.
“It would be an unexcused absence, so there are just natural consequences,” said Mike Patton, superintendent of Saratoga Springs School District, told Spectrum News. “It can vary anywhere from a verbal warning to a detention to an in-school suspension.”
Other examples also surfaced on social media
Friday’s walkout was the third nationwide student-led protest against gun violence since a former student armed with an AR-15 opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, killing 17 people.
One month later, as the school safety and gun control debate raged across the country, students walked out of class for 17 minutes, each minute to commemorate the victims of that massacre. On March 24, about 200,000 students and allies descended on Washington D.C. for “March for Our Lives,” spearheaded by Parkland student survivors, and solidarity rallies were held across the world.
Cover image: Students march to the Capitol on Pennsylvania Avenue to call on Congress to act on gun violence prevention during a national walkout on April 20, 2018, which marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)