Upstate students walk out of school to protest gun violence - FOX Carolina 21

Upstate students walk out of school to protest gun violence

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Students walk out of Westside High School (Mar. 14, 2018/FOX Carolina) Students walk out of Westside High School (Mar. 14, 2018/FOX Carolina)
Walk-out at JL Mann (Mar. 14, 2018/FOX Carolina) Walk-out at JL Mann (Mar. 14, 2018/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Students across the country participated in National School Walk-Out Day to protest for 17 minutes in solidarity with the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida.

School districts in the Upstate and Western North Carolina said they were working with students to come up with safe ways to participate in a nationwide “walk out” on Wednesday on the one-month anniversary of the tragedy in Parkland.

Students and even some teachers walked out of class at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes in honor of gun violence victims and to show support for stricter gun laws.

At Westside High School, dozens of students walked out of class to participate, many with signs against gun violence and in memory of the victims. One of the signs was in memory of Jacob Hall, the 6-year-old killed in the shooting at Townville Elementary School.

Students at JL Mann High School also walked out of class and stood at the front of the building for 17 minutes.

At Byrnes High School, the district said approximately 15 students made signs and held them, chanting slogans like "no more guns." The protest was peaceful, although students who did leave campus will face in school suspension. During "Power Hour" form 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. at Byrnes, students can gather at the football field behind the school to demonstrate.

Principal Noemi Pavon said at Legacy Charter, nearly 1,000 middle and high school students participated in the walk-out. Some students gave speeches and sang songs. Pavon said the demonstration was about seeing what having a voice looks like. The students planned the event, although the school provided the space.

SLIDESHOW: Westside High students walk out, release balloons for gun violence victims

Many schools in the Upstate and western North Carolina were offering on-campus activities that would  still allow students to make their voices heard without leaving school grounds.

Greenville County Schools, South Carolina's largest school district, said they are not participating in the walkout, but still want to give students an opportunity to safely demonstrate.

WATCH: Greenville Co. Schools spokesperson urges students to stay safe, indoors during National Walk-Out

“The intended purpose of this national movement is to support gun control legislation, a highly sensitive political topic,” stated Beth Brotherton, a spokesperson for Greenville County Schools. “Instead of polarizing students, we have asked them to unify and focus on kindness, remembrance and building a safer school climate.”

Brotherton said students at all middle and high schools were encouraged to come up with indoor activities, because allowing students to walk out of secure buildings poses safety risks.

After the event, Brotherton released the following numbers of students who participated in the National Walkout:

  • Berea – 0
  • Blue Ridge – 1
  • Carolina – 20
  • Eastside – 27
  • Greenville – 7
  • Greer – 5
  • Hillcrest – 39
  • J.L. Mann - 206
  • Mauldin - 179
  • Riverside -16
  • Southside – 0
  • Travelers Rest – 30
  • Wade Hampton – 0
  • Woodmont – 0
  • Fine Arts Center – 1

Students who walked out would be cited for cutting class, Brotherton said.

Some of the suggested alternatives included:

High Schools in Greenville County:

  • Sign banners to pledge an end to school violence
  • Sign cards for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High
  • At 10am students can walk into the hallways and sit silently for 17 minutes while the names of the MSDH victims are read aloud
  • At 10am students can go into the hallway and lock arms with other students to form a circle around the inside of the school while the victim’s names are read aloud
  • Students can wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school colors and take photos as a student body
  • Display 17 desks in the main hallway with pictures and names of the victims
  • Open the media center at lunchtime for students to write emails to lawmakers
  • Create t-shirts for students to sell and wear

Middle Schools in Greenville County:

  • Moment of silence at 10am with names of victims read
  • Students will have the opportunity to write letters to survivors or lawmakers
  • “Walk Up” not “Walk Out.”  Students will be encouraged to reach out to someone who is sitting alone or who they have never met.
  • Students will use the website “Answer Garden” to create a kindness word cloud.
  • Write thank you cards to first responders
  • School wide assembly to encourage unity. Chorus will perform and students will share messages of kindness.
  • Start a 17 day fund raiser to an established account for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High
  • “Black out” to honor victims
  • Optional student lead assembly to share information researched about Florida victims and talk about student responsibility in school safety.
  • “Walk-out” of first period class and stand in the hallway for a moment of silence

“Because of the many unknowns (on Wednesday) the school district is taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach for supervision and school safety,” Brotherton said. “We will have extra administrators and law enforcement at our schools to keep students safe. “

The Greenville Police Department confirmed it would have additional officers posted at schools in the city and had been coordinating with the school district to provide additional security.

“The GPD firmly believes the best way to ensure the safest possible outcomes is for all students and staff to remain inside the school buildings should they decide to participate in remembrances, demonstrations, or other forms of expression.,” said Donald Porter, a spokesman for the department. “The Greenville Police Department’s role- as always- will be to enforce matters related to law enforcement.  Student and staff discipline issues are left solely to the discretion of the school district.”

Melissa Robinette, a spokesperson for Spartanburg District Five echoed Greenville’s stance.

“As we told our students and parents in a letter, as a public school district, we cannot sanction an illegal walkout of school.  While we fully support our students' right to express their opinions and concerns, we believe there is a appropriate time and place to do so,” Robinette said.  “For those who chose to stay on campus grounds, we are working on outlets to get involved, including but not limited to, a voter registration opportunity.”

Kyle Newton with Anderson District Five said students had come up with indoor activities for Wednesday, but Westside High School would utilize it's track to honor both the Florida victims and the first grader that was killed in the 2016 deadly shooting at Townville Elementary.

"At our high schools most activity is taking place inside, but Westside is walking to their track to release 17 balloons for Parkland, Florida and one big superhero balloon for Jacob Hall of Townville," Newton said.

Anderson District One said its students were planning "sit-ins," in which students and faculty will sit down and discuss safety concerns, have moments of silence as the Florida victims' names are read, and holding other meetings with school officials concerning safety and preventing violence.

"Students in Anderson School District One benefit from being active participants in democracy and will get an opportunity to apply what they have been taught - to think, to plan and to communicate," said Jane Harrison with Anderson District One. "Therefore, student leaders at each of our high schools have worked to create meaningful, reflective times for students on March 14."

Other school districts, such as Laurens District 56, said no organized events were planned, but any students who chose to leave class will be sent to another area on campus but will be disciplined in accordance with school policy.

Most school districts said students who follow the school guidelines for participating in the events would not be disciplined.

“Students who choose to respectfully participate in the 17-minute walk-out will not be counted absent or face any disciplinary action. A full day absence will be treated as just that: an absence,” said Molly McGowan Gorsuch with Henderson County Public Schools.

The disciplinary actions for leaving school grounds while classes are in session varies from school to school. Consult your child's school directly with specific questions about these March 14 remembrance events.

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