NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- The school shooting in Parkland, Florida that claimed the lives of 17 people is sparking protests and massive conversation about gun control and mental health issues.
As part of the discussion, students across the country took a stance against gun violence Wednesday by conducting school walkouts. Several school communities in Hampton Roads were among them.
People used #NationalSchoolWalkout, #NationalWalkoutDay, and #ENOUGH on social media to refer to the demonstrations as they shared their experiences.
The National Women's March Network called on students, faculty, and administrators to walk out of school at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14 for 17 minutes to honor the people killed in Florida.
The planned walkouts are not sponsored by schools but planned by community members to answer the call of the National Women's March.
A student at Crittenden Middle School in Newport News who Snapchatted the walkout there included the observation that when it came to participating "you should have a good reason not just to get out of class."
Delegate Cia Price (D) joined people at Heritage High School for their walkout and took time to address the crowd, telling everyone they had her support.
In Virginia Beach, Salem High School Senior Elena Williams explained her reason for participating in her school’s walkout.
"You can’t just sit there and do nothing and act like it’s not happening,” said Williams. “You have to stand up there and honor people that have died and then try to prevent more people from dying.”
Chyna McCoy, Salem High School senior, said also spoke to 13News Now.
McCoy said due to the frequency of school shootings, she has anxiety going to school and often thinks about how she can protect her 16-year-old brother.
“I try to do the best that I can by being prepared for me and my younger brother, to make sure that we can try to get out of the situation together or so at least he can get out,” said McCoy.
The destination for several walkouts, including the ones at Western Branch High School in Chesapeake and Churchland High School in Portsmouth, was a football stadium/field.
Portsmouth Public Schools spokeswoman Cherise Newsome said students at a total of six middle and high schools participated in student-led demonstrations. No one at any location was disciplined or suspended. Some students chose to remain in their classrooms with teachers.
Among school communities in Norfolk that held walkouts were Booker T. Washington High School, Granby High School, and Maury High School.
Prior to the walkout, 13NewsNow reached out to the school divisions throughout Hampton Roads, asking how they planned to respond to the it:
Hampton City Schools
Hampton City Schools (HCS) is not endorsing this event. However, the school division recognizes the individual rights of young people. Communication regarding the details of March 14 will be distributed to HCS parents on March 8.
Newport News Public Schools
In keeping with our commitment to develop citizen-ready students, Newport News Public Schools recognizes our students’ right to assemble and exhibit civic leadership. NNPS will neither encourage nor discourage student participation. School leadership teams have been asked to meet with student leaders to gauge interest, and if needed, to coordinate plans including the gathering location outside of the building.
On the day of the event, school staff will not impede student participation, but they will monitor student movement to ensure safety. School security officers and other staff members will provide additional coverage outside to supervise students during the time of the scheduled walkout. Only students and school staff will be permitted to participate in the student walkout on school property. Students are expected to return to classrooms after the 17-minute walkout. Students who do not return to class will be marked absent.
Norfolk Public Schools
Norfolk Public Schools (NPS) appreciates every student’s right to peaceful protest, however, the district has not organized any activities related to the national walkout. Administrators have been provided guidance and plans are in place to manage students in the event of a walkout at any of our schools.
Portsmouth Public Schools
We are aware of the national protest. The administration will remain viewpoint-neutral. However, we acknowledge students’ and staff members’ right to free speech. Senior staff members and principals are still working through the steps we may need to take to ensure safe school operations in the event of a protest.
Poquoson City Public Schools
Our high school students are working on doing some alternative activities in lieu of the national walk-out which will be supported by the school system and school. They are still working out details so I do not have them for you at this time. Likely they will be finalized by the end of the week.
Suffolk Public Schools
Suffolk Public Schools is aware of the National School Walkout for March 14. While we are not endorsing any particular viewpoint, we respect students’ rights to express themselves and their desire to memorialize the lives that were lost at Parkland last month. Each school is making plans to ensure student safety if any students decide to participate. Students should follow safety precautions and return to class after the 17 minutes. If students are disruptive or leave campus during this time, they will receive a consequence aligned with School Board policy.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools
Teachers, administrators or other school staff will neither encourage nor discourage students from exercising their right to participate in any peaceful school walkout. We will, however, take necessary steps to ensure the safety of those students who may elect to participate.
Virginia Beach Public Schools spokeswoman Lauren Nolasco said any students who leave class to participate will receive an unexcused absence.
Williamsburg-James City County Schools
We are aware that students within some of our schools are planning to walk out on March 14 as part of the national movement. While we do not sanction this walk-out, we respect the way our students are thoughtfully planning their participation.
There will be no consequences for students who peacefully assemble. Additionally, students will be allowed to make-up work missed during the event. Appropriate discipline will be taken if students leave campus or otherwise disrupt the school day. We plan a full instructional day on March 14.
York County School Division
The division is currently working with our administrators to develop plans that meet both the division’s responsibility to provide a safe, secure learning environment for all students while recognizing the rights of students and staff as outlined in the division’s Student Conduct Code and the School Board Policy Manual.
We will be providing additional information to our parents and students later this week.
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