The National School Walkout is set for Wednesday, complete with hashtags, a national organizing website, much anticipation from the media and a whole lot of input from area principals and superintendents.
Don’t expect flash mobs or students standing up en masse and catching their teachers unaware. Events in the Kansas City area probably won’t have the edgy tone that the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida have brought to the gun debate since 14 of their fellow students and three teachers were killed.
Administrators have shaped this day into less of a student-led display of social activism on gun violence and more of an adult-guided teachable moment.
Some area schools aren’t even letting the kids walk out. They will be excused from class and will file into auditoriums for sessions on bullying. Some schools have shifted the time when students will participate.
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Nationally, the #Enough walkout is planned for 10 a.m. across all time zones for 17 minutes, one minute for every victim in Parkland, Fla.
The control that the adults have exerted is certainly understandable. The last thing any superintendent or principal wants is to have students leave the building and get hurt or fail to return to class.
Wherever students gather on Wednesday, the focus should be on encouraging them to get involved, to stay involved and to understand the power they hold.
The problem of gun violence in America will be addressed — or not — with this generation leading the effort.
Speaking up at one event won’t do it. Registering to vote and then committing to becoming an engaged and informed citizen will.
The American Civil Liberties Union has offered thoughtful guidance ahead of the National School Walkout.
The ACLU counseled schools to allow students to express differing views and to encourage discussion. In other words, don’t preach to the students. Let them talk. Providing them with historical context about social change would be helpful. And be lenient with absentee policies. Don’t punish minor infractions or shut down the students’ right to express themselves on Wednesday.
From the perspective of a parent or teacher, it’s dismaying that part of the childhood experience in America now includes active shooter training and practicing lockdowns at school.
But it’s up to the students who’ve grown up with those sad safeguards to determine how they feel about these issues and decide what they want to do to effect change.