300 students at Grain Valley High School take part in nationwide - KCTV5 News

300 students at Grain Valley High School take part in nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence

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The walkout included chairs with names of the Parkland victims on them and facts about them. (Emmaleeann Frances Shroyer) The walkout included chairs with names of the Parkland victims on them and facts about them. (Emmaleeann Frances Shroyer)

Students at Grain Valley High School took part in a nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence following the massacre of 17 people at a Florida high school.

The walkout included chairs with names of the Parkland victims on them and facts about them. Nearly 300 students took part in the 17-minute event organized by students at the high school Wednesday morning.

"District and building leaders are committed to providing our students an opportunity to express themselves, while also ensuring a safe and supportive environment for learning. Students have a constitutional right to free speech, but it also must occur within the context of not substantially disrupting the educational environment," Principal Jeremy Plowman said in a letter to parents.

Across the country and beyond, students were urged to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each of the dead in Florida. At some schools, students didn't go outside but lined the hallways, gathered in gyms and auditoriums or wore orange, the color used by the movement against gun violence, or maroon, the school color at Stoneman Douglas.

Over and over, students across the country declared that enough is enough, that too many young people have died, and that they are tired of going to school afraid of getting shot.

Some schools applauded students for taking a stand or at least tolerated the walkouts, while others threatened punishment.

Plowman said students in Grain Valley were held responsible for any work missed during the event. Participating high school students returned to class after the event.

About 30 students at North Middle School also took part in a similar 17-minute event at their school Wednesday morning.

Historians said the demonstrations were shaping up to be one of the largest youth protests in decades.

"It seems like it's going to be the biggest youth-oriented and youth-organized protest movements going back decades, to the early '70s at least," said David Farber a history professor at the University of Kansas who has studied social change movements. "Young people are that social media generation, and it's easy to mobilize them in a way that it probably hadn't been even 10 years ago."

Other protests planned in coming weeks include the March for Our Lives rally, which organizers say is expected to draw hundreds of thousands to the nation's capital on March 24.

Here is the letter Plowman sent to parents about the event:

"GVHS Families:

There has been a national movement since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last month that has attracted the attention of some of our students as well. Several school walkouts have been planned at the national level this spring. The first event was today at 10:00 am.

Some of our students approached us last week with an interest in participating today in some way. Their plan was to come together as an interested group of students for 17 minutes as a memorial for the 17 people who lost their lives in the Parkland tragedy one month ago. We gave these student organizers guidance to ensure their free speech was protected, without being substantially disruptive to the educational environment.

We are pleased to report that the plan crafted by student organizers and carried out today went smoothly, safely, and without incident. Interested students came together for 17 minutes for their memorial and then returned to class. To ensure the safety of our students and staff, only students enrolled in our schools were permitted on campus during today’s event. We appreciate the work of the Grain Valley Police Department for being onsite today to screen any vehicle entering school property during the students’ time of memorial.

For any future national or other events that lead to our students feeling they wish to be heard, we will take our cues from them, provide a safe venue with parameters and adult supervision, and will work with local law enforcement to ensure the safety of all those involved.

In respect of all views, we do not dismiss classes for any walkouts, peaceful protests or other demonstrations. Had students elected to walk out today and not return to class as planned, they would have been marked with an unexcused absence. Any students leaving campus must be signed out and excused by a parent. If a student leaves campus without being signed out by a parent, the parent will be contacted and the student will receive an unexcused absence.  We assign disciplinary consequences for any disruptive behavior or other violation of district or school behavior policies.  

District and building leaders are committed to providing our students an opportunity to express themselves, while also ensuring a safe and supportive environment for learning. Students have a constitutional right to free speech, but it also must occur within the context of not substantially disrupting the educational environment.

We were pleased to work with student organizers for today’s event to ensure a safe venue for them to express themselves without disruption to the school day."

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