CLINTON COUNTY — High school students nationwide held remembrances Wednesday of students killed in shootings in Florida as well as in other school shootings, while many demonstrated against gun violence overall.
Locally, students at Wilmington High School and at Blanchester High School gathered outside to remember the fallen and to call for measures to bring school shootings to an end.
Some WHS students held signs that included the messages “Stand Up” and “WHS for Positivity” as well as signs that included names and information about the victims of the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
The News Journal on Tuesday morning, via email, asked the superintendents of the school districts in Clinton County what students may have planned for Wednesday regarding walkouts/remembrances, and what guidance school officials gave them.
Wilmington Superintendent Mindy McCarty-Stewart told the News Journal on Tuesday, “Our student leaders have alternative plans … The plans are promoting a strong climate under the year long theme of ‘Taking Care of Each Other’.
“It is about honoring the victims. It is not about political protest.”
She provided this letter that was sent to parents:
“Dear Wilmington City Schools Family,
“In response to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, student-led walkouts and protests are planned across our nation. We are aware of a national walk-out planned by the Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group on Wednesday, March 14th. National organizers are encouraging the walkout to take place on March 14th at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people killed in Parkland.
“Several students at Wilmington High School and Wilmington Middle School have approached the administration to provide a safe and appropriate way to show their respect to the victims and their families of Parkland. Our student leaders have shown maturity in understanding that the event planned on March 14 should not interfere with the learning environment and create an unsafe or disruptive environment. Our district does not sanction a walkout. Employees are not permitted to participate in any form of a political protest during work hours. They are responsible for maintaining the learning and they understand that they are to refrain from influencing students to support any political cause. To maintain order in our schools, our students have developed safe alternatives to honor the victims in the shooting that took place on Feb 14, 2018.
“The Wilmington High School student leaders are promoting the theme of “Take Care of Each Other”. Students will have the option to attend a rally at the youth field (weather permitting) for 17 minutes where 17 bookbags will be displayed to represent each person that lost their lives on Feb 14th. Students will be able to place letters of support to the families and sign a banner to commit to “Taking Care of Each Other”. Teachers will remain in classrooms providing instruction for students not participating. All student will have the opportunity throughout the week to write letters to be placed in the backpack and sign the banner. Wilmington Middle School students will be able to submit letters as well. The Elementary Schools will have the theme of their morning meetings around kindness. Our Key Club will be selling shamrocks during lunch to raise funds to support Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“The goal is to provide a peaceful way to honor the victims and the community in Parkland, Florida as well as promote kindness in our own community. Any student that chooses to deviate from the goals and causes a disruption will be disciplined. The events of March 14th are not political and they are not protests. It is intended to be about healing and support.
“We encourage you to have conversations with your child about your family’s expectations for their involvement with the positive rally event on March 14. All students will be respected for their decisions. Please continue to encourage your children to report things they see and hear that are concerning to an adult in authority to help break the silence and keep our students safe. We appreciate your continued partnership and support.”
Blanchester Superintendent Dean Lynch said Tuesday, “Having discussions with my building principals, there doesn’t seem to be much ‘chatter’ about a student walk out at Blanchester High School tomorrow. However, school administrators plan on allowing any student who would like to honor the loss of their fellow students in Florida the opportunity to do so by silently walking around the track for seventeen minutes, one minute for each loss of life.
“Students just ‘walking out’ of school would disrupt the educational process which is a clear violation of the Student Code of Conduct,” said Lynch. “And with school employees having loco parentis responsibilities such disrespectful and disobedient behavior would be assessed and disciplined accordingly … We should be teaching our children they don’t have to express themselves in such a negative manner. All of us (adults and children alike) should express ourselves through acts of kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control which no rules or laws are in place to govern.
“That is the focus of our plans here at Blanchester on the 14th as we allow those individuals who want to in express their support for their fellow students in a kind and respectful manner,” Lynch added.
At East Clinton
East Clinton Superintendent Eric Magee said, “The plan at East Clinton is to continue classes as normal. However, if there are students who want to participate in this walkout, we will be prepared to allow them a limited and secure location to memorialize the lives of the 17 students from Florida. If their stance is on honoring the lives of students lost in these tragic events and on securing school facilities across the nation, East Clinton supports that voice. Our hearts go out to those families.
“While we have taken many precautions to secure our facilities and have taken many steps to try to prevent such an incident, better securing all facilities will always be an ongoing conversation,” Magee added.
Information on Clinton-Massie plans was not provided to the News Journal.
Some students at an Ohio high school that had a shooting last year joined the nationwide student walkouts to protest gun violence, despite being warned they could face detention or more serious discipline.
The Springfield News-Sun reported about 10 students exited West Liberty-Salem High School as a group of supporters across the street cheered Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the ACLU of Ohio released an open letter to school superintendents, principals and teachers across the state encouraging officials not to punish students who choose to participate in the scheduled nationwide school walkouts.
While schools may decide to designate students who walk out from class as unexcused or truant, the ACLU urged educators to seize this opportunity as a teachable moment.
“Scores of young people across Ohio and the nation will use their voices to speak out on an important social issue this week and that should be celebrated,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director J. Bennett Guess. “No matter where a person stands on gun control, these actions represent exactly what educators want their students to be — civically engaged and passionate.”
Across the nation
The National Rifle Association sent out a defiant tweet Wednesday that included a picture of an assault-style rifle and a comment saying: “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”
The tweet was posted as students around the country staged school walkouts to protest gun violence.
About 50 protesters supported student walkouts by gathering at the field office of a North Carolina senator to decry his connection to the National Rifle Association.
The protesters braved chilly temperatures and gusty winds outside U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s office in Winston-Salem on Wednesday. Across the nation, young people walked out of classes to demand action on gun violence.
According to watchdog group The Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA has spent nearly $7 million to support Burr’s campaigns over his career.
Protesters held signs saying “Books Not Bullets” and “Is 7 Million Dollars Worth 17 People’s Lives?”
Amid the nationwide school walkout, students at the school where a gunman killed 17 people gathered on the campus football field one month after the shooting to protest gun violence.
The group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students shouted “MSD! MSD!” and engaged in a group hug Wednesday morning.
The high school students rallied to continue putting pressure on federal lawmakers to enact gun control legislation. The rally comes less than a week after Florida Gov. Rick Scott cited the students’ actions in signing a bill that placed new restrictions on guns.
Hundreds of students at Parkland High School, outside Allentown, Pennsylvania, walked out of class and headed to the auditorium for a rally dubbed #parklandforparkland.
That school and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, share more than a name.
Stoneman Douglass freshman Daniel Duff, who survived the shooting by hiding in a closet but lost seven of his friends, is the cousin of Collin and Kyleigh Duff, who are brother and sister and go to Parkland High in Pennsylvania.
The Duff siblings have been selling #parklandforparkland bracelets, raising more than $10,000 for the Florida shooting victims, and Daniel Duff described what it was like to live through the shooting in a video that was shown at the rally.
Parkland High students called for stricter gun laws, read short biographies of each of the 17 shooting victims of last month’s shooting and observed a moment of silence at 10 a.m.
Students at Columbine High School in Colorado participated in the nationwide school walkout.
About 250 students left school and gathered on a soccer field next to the building Wednesday.
They held red, white and blue balloons and released them as they read the names of the 17 people killed last month.
The names of the 13 people killed at Columbine were also read before the students observed a moment of silence.
Hundreds of students from the Washington area rallied at the Capitol to urge stricter gun control laws.
And more than 2,000 high-school age protesters observed 17 minutes of silence outside the White House as part of a nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence.
An organizer counted down the seconds until 10 a.m. and the protesters spent the 17 minutes sitting on the ground with their backs turned to the White House as a nearby church bell chimed.