SANDY SPRINGS, GA — The Fulton County School System said it will support the First Amendment rights of its students who want to conduct walkouts to showcase their views on school safety with one stipulation. Students are more than welcome to express themselves if their activities do not “interrupt daily operations, classroom instruction or become disruptive,” the system said Friday.
The school system released its message on Facebook in light of national student protests following the Feb. 14 devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead and injured numerous others.
“While Fulton County Schools believes in personal expression and First Amendment rights, we also must make sure those actions do not impact the instructional day,” the system said, a rule outlined in the Fulton school board’s policy. “Our district believes it has a responsibility to teach students how to express their beliefs in a peaceful, positive, and safe way that puts the spotlight on the message, not on the activity.”
The system also said any student who misses a class may face an unexcused absence and if he or she becomes disruptive, that student will face disciplinary action.
Fulton County Schools also said it hopes parents and stakeholders will help “guide” students as they consider taking part in these protests or walkout initiatives. District staff members are working on a plan to engage its pupils, parents and the community in discussions surrounding security issues and that information will be shared in the coming weeks.
“We want structured and supervised activities where everyone can express themselves freely and safely,” the system concluded in the message posted on its Facebook page. “Thank you for your continued partnership as we continually explore ways to keep our students safe and appropriately-engaged in instruction.”
Late Friday afternoon, the system added principals and staff members are listening to students and their ideas about how to express their opinions in the coming weeks. Examples of supported activities include students coordinating with their principal to gather around the school’s flagpole during their lunch hour or “peacefully” walking out a designated area for 17 minutes during a non-instructional time in support of the victims. They can also organize a candlelight vigil or memorial during a previously arranged time.
“Our students will have additional ideas and plan to exercise their free speech and to show support for the student victims of last week’s tragic school shooting,” Fulton schools added. “So, we will continue our listening sessions and our dialogue with them so that their needs to express themselves, to receive high-quality instruction, and to be safe, are all met in the upcoming weeks.”
A “March for Our Lives” protest planned for March 24 in Washington, D.C., could attract as many as 500,000. Organizers are pushing for lawmakers to take action on gun control. Student survivors of the Parkland, Florida, shooting are the brains behind the event.
On Tuesday, students survivors left their small town and made the 400-mile trip to Tallahassee where they demanded changes to the state’s gun laws that allowed accused gunman Nikolas Cruz to obtain an AR-15 assault rifle. The Parkland shooting survivors also received an outpouring of support from students across the country and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Steven Spielberg.
President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he would support comprehensive background checks “with an emphasis on mental health,” raising the age from 18 to 21 to buy a rifle and ending the sale of bump stocks.
I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue – I hope!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
The latest development to come out of the Parkland tragedy involves an armed Broward County sheriff’s deputy who did “nothing” while the gunman unloaded his AR-15 assault rifle inside the high school. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that deputy, Scott Peterson, abruptly retired on Thursday after being informed that he was being suspended without pay pending an internal investigation.
Israel said that the school resource officer stood outside Building 12 for four of the six minutes while the Cruz gunned down victims.
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