Myers Park High students say they were suspended for walkout over gun violence

Myers Park High students say they were suspended for walkout over gun violence

CHARLOTTE, NC (Bruce Henderson/The Charlotte Observer) - Students at Charlotte's Myers Park High School say they were suspended Friday for walking out of class as part of nationwide protests against gun violence.

Five students were suspended by school administrators, said Myers Park senior Nicholas Hicks, who said he was one of them.

"I think I knew when I walked out that I could have faced suspension, of course, but I was also ready to stand up for what I believe in," Hicks said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools says it can't comment on student information or disciplinary action.

"CMS supports the right of students to express themselves within the guidelines of the CMS Code of Student Conduct and guidance provided by the district," spokesman Brian Hacker said by email. "This guidance encourages students to work with principals, teachers and staff to create planned events that provide learning opportunities to all students who choose to participate. The CMS Code of Student Conduct remains in place and students are subject to the measures of that code when guidance for student expression is not followed."

Students from hundreds of schools across the country were expected to walk out of classes Friday, a date intended to mark the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., that left 13 people dead.

Several Charlotte-area schools had planned walkouts Friday. More than 200 Butler High students registered to participate in Friday's national walkout, Observer news partner WBTV said.

A website hosted by Indivisible, a group that opposes the Trump agenda, listed 10 protests and walkouts planned for Charlotte, Davidson, Gaston County, Waxhaw, Concord, Mooresville and Tega Cay, S.C. They're among more than 2,300 planned across the country.

Hicks, who is co-captain of the congressional debate team at Myers Park, said he left his class at 10 a.m. to join other students who planned to sit quietly in the school's quad. Administrators stationed at exit doors told students they would face disciplinary action if they left, he said.

Hicks said he found another way out of the building and left campus. About 10 students made it to the quad, he said, on the same day the school's Senior Carnival was scheduled.

Another Myers Park student, who identified herself only as Nico, said a few students made it to the quad, each wearing homemade "price tags" that referred to money the National Rifle Association has given to North Carolina's Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

An assistant principal took about five students to the school office, where they were told to call their parents to pick them up, Nico said.

At mid-afternoon Friday, Hicks said, administrators notified the students that their suspensions had been altered. The suspensions would be for a single day, Friday, instead of lasting until next Tuesday, he said.

Betsy Rosen, a Myers Park parent who is not related to the suspended students, said she was outraged by the school's action.

Other students were allowed to leave class for the school carnival, she said, "but a kid who has a conviction and wants to make a statement, why is that a punishable action? I don't think the crime fits the punishment. Suspension sends a message that's almost the antithesis of what they teach in the classroom, which is to be honest and stand up for what you believe in."

Students nationwide also took part in walkouts on March 14 in the wake of the shooting deaths of 17 students and staff at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Myers Park scheduled a student vigil that day, Hicks said.

Officials at Charlotte Catholic High said students leaders had chosen to pray rather than walk out of class that day, but acknowledged that the school's principal had told students they could be disciplined for leaving class.