Local school districts prepare for the National School Walkout

Just over a dozen Kennewick students walked out of class in solidarity with other schools across the nation in an effort to make a change when it comes gun control laws. (February 21, 2018/Maecy Enger)

A national organization has called on students to walk out of class on Wednesday in honor of those killed in Florida and to send a message about gun laws to Congress. The walkout is expected to start at 10 a.m. and last for 17 minutes, to represent a minute for each life lost in the Parkland School shooting. While school districts are not participating or planning the event, officials are preparing if it should happen.

Many of the Mid-Columbia Basin school districts say they respect student rights to protest and will allow them to leave. However, students at all three Tri-Cities school districts will be marked for an unexcused absence if they leave, but parents can send a note to remedy that.

In Hermiston, students are expected to return to class once the 17 minute demonstration is over. Walla Walla has issued a similar statement and has said students will not be marked tardy or unexcused as long as they adhere to the 17 minute time frame and behavioral expectations.

Below are the statements issued by some of the school districts in the Mid-Columbia Basin.

Hermiston School District:

  • While this is a non-district sponsored event, students will be supervised should they choose to participate in the student-initiated walkout. Students have a constitutional right to free speech at school, so long as it does not disrupt the learning environment for others.
  • Should HSD students choose to participate in a walkout on school grounds during school hours, access will be limited to HSD students and the staff providing their supervision. These will not be public events.
  • Staff will not participate in walkouts, but they will be present to supervise students on school grounds.
  • We do not expect a walkout at the elementary schools; however, staff will be ready to supervise students should it be necessary.
  • At the middle school level, staff will supervise students, should they want to exercise their right to walk out.
  • At the high school, staff will supervise students on school grounds. Should students choose to leave campus, they will be unsupervised.
  • It is the expectation that all students return to class according to the regular schedule at the conclusion of the 17 minutes.
  • Instruction will continue during any walkout event.

Richland School District:

  • RSD schools are not organizing walkout events so we don’t know at this point (March 12) if any walkouts will happen.
  • RSD high school administrators have been having ongoing and open communication about these issues with student leaders.
  • Any student has the Constitutional right to exercise free speech and this includes walking out of a classroom to protest school gun violence.***
  • If any students walk out of class, school administrators will do everything possible to ensure their safety; this includes calling local police for assistance.
  • Local police have already been contacted to give them a heads up about a possible walkout on March 14.
  • Students who participate in a walkout event will be marked ‘unverified’ for all missed classes that occur during the timeline of the event…..
  • Within three days, parents can call and excuse a student, and the ‘unverified’ will be changed to ‘excused.’
  • Students will be allowed reasonable accommodations to make up work, exams, labs, etc., missed during the event.

Pasco School District:

  • Pasco schools are not sponsoring any walkout events. We have received information concerning possible informal student activity. It is unknown at this time whether any students will participate.
  • Pasco school administrators continue to be in close contact with students and will continue to monitor social media for updates.
  • If any student chooses to leave class to participate in a protest, the district will treat the absence or tardy as unexcused unless a parent/guardian follows the process to excuse a student absence.
  • Peaceful, non-disruptive protest by students is protected by state and federal law. The district will take appropriate action to ensure order, as well as student and staff safety as needed.

Walla Walla School District:

High School:

At the high school level, to ensure a safe and orderly environment, we have asked school administration to cooperate with potential participating students to identify a structured plan to be implemented during the 17-minute time frame. It is important to emphasize student participation on March 14 at 10 a.m. is optional as classroom instruction will continue as planned. This is not a district-sponsored activity. Students who choose to participate will not be marked absent/tardy as long as they adhere to the time frame and behavioral expectations. Students who choose to participate will be expected to make up any work missed during the last few minutes of 3rd period and the first few minutes of 4th period. We encourage you to talk to your high school student about their potential participation. If a decision is made to participate, please reinforce the time, behavior, and missed-work expectations.

Middle School and Elementary School:

At the middle and elementary school levels, buildings will be reinforcing the importance of school safety. Schools will be scheduling their required monthly safety drill and/or holding brief assemblies to reinforce school safety and reporting measures with students.