National School Walkout: What you need to know

Posted at 12:17 PM, Mar 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-12 14:00:22-04

(RNN) – The National School Walkout is Wednesday.

The event is a nationwide memorial and protest in honor of the 17 people who lost their lives in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

It will take place at 10 a.m. across all time zones and last for 17 minutes – one minute for each person who died.

The walkout will take many students, teachers, staff out of their classrooms to push for changes in gun laws. Parents and others may join the walkouts as well.

Ahead of the event, some questions surround student participation:

Can students get in trouble for taking part?

Generally, no. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled that students don’t lose their freedom of speech or expression when they come to school.

Still, students need to do their homework and could get hit with an unexcused absence if they walk out. It’s probably not a big problem unless they regularly miss classes.

But not all school systems are handling it the same way.

The Needville Independent School District in Texas has said that anyone participating in walkouts or protests would be suspended for three days.

Can student’s leave campus?

They can, but is it a good idea? Schools may have additional safety concerns if students leave school grounds.

Students may want to check school policies before making such a move, Ben Wizner with the ACLU told CNN.

"Schools might have difference policies for missing class versus leaving school property without permission," he said.

Can students have a parent sign them out of class?

Yes, and some parents depending on their political views may do it for different reasons.

Can a teacher schedule a test or force a student to write a paper?

Yes. No one has a constitution right not to do school work, Wizner said.

"It seems to be a sensible way for the school to teach students" lessons on civics and citizenship, he said.

But scheduling a test specifically to stop students from walking out may be a different issue. Wizner called it “vindictive” and a missed opportunity for students to learn about civil disobedience.

The walkout is being organized by EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women’s March. More than 2,500 walkouts have been registered across the country.

“We demand that Congress enact an immediate resolution declaring gun violence a public health crisis and dedicating federal funding to research solutions and implement violence intervention programs,” the group’s website said.

The group wants:

  • A ban on assault weapons
  • Expanded background check to all gun sales
  • A gun violence restraining order law for people who show signs of violent behavior

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