Prepare for student walkouts in wake of Florida shooting, CMS tells principals

Prepare for student walkouts in wake of Florida shooting, CMS tells principals

CHARLOTTE, NC (Ann Doss Helms/The Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg principals should be prepared for students to take part in a trio of walkouts and protests against gun violence that have emerged in the wake of last week's Florida high school shooting, district officials warned Monday.

The note from Chief Communications Officer Tracy Russ urges principals to talk with student leaders, know the plans and keep students on campus.

"The tragedy in Broward County last week and other losses of life on school campuses across the nation over several years have driven increased interest in student-led civic engagement efforts and actions, including the idea of school walk-outs," Russ wrote. "CMS supports students' Constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and free expression. Our goal in responding to walk-out plans and other forms of peaceful assembly is to try and keep focus on teaching and learning while providing guidance and planning to support student and staff safety."

Events being promoted on social media include:

  • A 17-minute school walkout at 10 a.m. March 14, with students standing outside one minute for each person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a 19-year-old former student. The #NationalSchoolWalkout is organized by Women’s March Youth Empower, which is demanding that Congress do more to protect schools, neighborhoods and places of worship from gun violence.
  • March for Our Lives on March 24. The student-led event will center on Washington, D.C., but people are encouraged to host local events as well.
  • National High School Walkout is scheduled for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. Students are encouraged to wear orange, leave school at 10 a.m. and stay out all day. The founder is listed as 15-year-old Lane Murdock.

March 24 is a Saturday but the other two are school days.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Youth Council, a group of students leaders from high schools across the county, will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, to discuss responses to the latest shooting.

CMS faced a round of student protests last February and March, after a national "Day Without Immigrants" rally inspired thousands to march in Charlotte's streets.

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Middle and high school students followed up with rallies and marches, some held on campus with the support of school administrators. But some disrupted school, and in one case Garinger High students marched seven miles along busy streets to Vance High, leading officials to lock down schools along their route.