Virginia school districts respond to planned student walkouts on March 14

We checked in with local school districts to see what they have planned

By Jenna Zibton - Anchor
Ferre' Dollar/CNN

ROANOKE, Va. - March 14 is the day when thousands of students plan to walk out of class.

It will begin with the Women's March EMPOWER branch, which is dedicated to youth-led advocacy.

The goal is for students and staff across the country to walk out of their classrooms for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. to protest Congress' inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to gun violence.

We checked in with local school districts to see what they have planned:

  • Roanoke County:

    We have heard that some students are planning to walk out of class for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. on March 14 in response to the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida.

    We respect and support the right of our students to advocate for causes that are important to them, but we must also take steps to maintain a safe and secure learning environment. Our middle and high school principals and our administrative teams have been working with students and student groups to discuss safe, appropriate and creative ways for students to share their voices while at school.

    While procedures and activities may vary among the schools, each middle and high school will have a designated safe area where students who wish to participate in the event will be permitted to go. School staff will provide supervision in these areas for the duration of the event. Because this is a student-led activity, school staff will not participate in the event but will remain in a supervisory capacity. Elementary schools will conduct a normal school day.

    Students who participate in the event will be expected to walk quietly to the designated safe area and behave appropriately during the event. Students will be expected to return to class quietly and promptly after the 17 minute event. Students who are disruptive or who behave inappropriately will be disciplined in accordance with out Code of Student Conduct.

    As I stated earlier, the safety of our students is our primary concern. Therefore, students will not be permitted to leave the building without parental approval. Parents who wish to check out their children can do so following normal check out procedures.

    Community members, including parents, will not be allowed to participate in any walkout-related event on school property due to safety concerns.

    I encourage you to talk to your child(ren) about how they may be feeling and the importance of expressing themselves in safe and appropriate ways at school. These can be exceptional moments for teaching and learning.

    Thank you.

    Dr. Greg Killough

  • Bedford County: "Our secondary schools will be permitting students to participate in The National School Walkout. We will be working closely with law enforcement to allow students to participate in designated and monitored locations. Students who wish to peacefully and respectfully participate will not be disciplined. It is important to note that, as always, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority and visitors will not be permitted to participate in this event," said a statement from the school system.
  • Botetourt County: Superintendent John Busher says they are meeting and discussing procedures for March 14 but the biggest concern is student safety. They do not condone the walk out and don't want it to happen but students won't be penalized if they participate. If students choose to walk out they want to make sure they are safe. Nothing is finalized yet. Administrators are also talking to student leadership to coordinate plans with them.
  • Campbell County: "Campbell County Schools neither encourages nor discourages participation in this event," said a statement. Students may participate in a peaceful manner. Staff will announce the location of where students should gather the morning of the event and students not wishing to participate with remain in class with their teacher. 
  • Lynchburg: "LCS administrators will be collaborating with students and teachers at all secondary schools to support activities that honor victims of the recent tragedy. Principals are working directly with their student councils to determine how the schools will support the students in this initiative. LCS respects each individual's right to peaceful assembly and free expression, within limits of ensuring safety and security. Therefore, these events are not open to the public," said a statement from Lynchburg schools.
  • Montgomery County: "We value the First Amendment rights of both our students and staff. Our goal is to ensure a safe educational environment for all students, free from political partiality. Our school principals are having conversations with staff and student leaders regarding March 14 events. We support our students with their expression of free speech and students will not receive a consequence for participating in 17-minute peaceful walkout. Our goal is to ensure that all students feel safe and respected, no matter what they choose to do," said a statement from the school system.
    • (THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO APRIL 20) One Voice Blacksburg is planning the event. Demonstrators will arrive, rain or shine, no later than 10 a.m. in the playing fields between Kipps Elementary School and Blacksburg Middle School, located along Prices Fork Road in Blacksburg. Adults will form a ring around the field, staying close enough to join hands with the people on either side of them. Children are asked to move to the open area in the center of the circle, while high schoolers may choose to be part of either group. Between 10 and 10:17 a.m., the adults will join hands in a circle of loving protection while the children play in the center.
  • Floyd County: "We have been in the process of planning with our students and staff a positive and productive way to honor this event." -John Wheeler, superintendent
  • Radford City: "At this point, we are meeting with student leaders at each of the schools to collaborate and get a better idea of their wants and needs surrounding these scheduled walk out events. Our plan is not to be punitive with them at all, but to be supportive the best we can while continuing to maintain the integrity of the instructional day." -- Rob Graham, superintendent.
  • Roanoke City: "We will abide by the wishes of parents."  -- Justin McLeod, Public Information Officer who says if children want to participate in the walkout they want parents to let them know through a note sent to school.
  • Rockbridge County: "At this time the high school is unaware of any student led activities." -- Matt Crossman, Public Information Officer

Virginia Tech's Director of Admissions Juan Espinoza, said, "Participation in peaceful protest by those who have applied to or have been admitted to Virginia Tech will not jeopardize one's admission. Virginia Tech will support any current or prospective student's first amendment rights."

We will continue to update this list as we learn more about what schools have planned for March 14.

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