Students Plan Walkouts Against Gun Violence. Some NC Schools Respond With Days Of Peace.

Mar 13, 2018

Many North Carolina students will join fellow students across the country in walking out of classes Wednesday. The day marks one month after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Area schools are taking a variety of approaches to the expected protests.

The nationwide school walkout is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday. Students will walk out of classes for 17 minutes to remember those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Organizers of the national walkout are also promoting it as a call for stricter gun laws.

Officials at some area schools say they are permitting peaceful protests and working with students to keep them safe. A Wake County School spokesperson said students there cannot be disciplined for peaceful protest, while a Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools spokesman says the district supports its students' rights to speak their minds about gun violence.

"As a school district, we absolutely support student voice," said Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Superintendent Pam Baldwin in a voicemail message sent to all parents earlier this month.

Other schools are getting ahead of student plans and organizing alternative events focused on peace, not protest. South Johnston High School students will celebrate a "Week of Unity" and release balloons in memory of the shooting victims. SAGE Academy in Chatham County is declaring a day of peace and permitting students to attend a school-wide memorial during an activity period in the afternoon, so as not to disrupt instruction.

Bobby Dixon is the principal of SAGE Academy and the Chatham County School of Science & Engineering, which share a building. Dixon says a few students came to him to ask about observing the national walkout.

"I think it's important for this age group to be very aware and socially conscious of what's happening," Dixon said. "And I just put it back on them, let's come up with something you would like to do -- without getting political, and without getting into the whole gun debate."

For the planned "Peace Day," Dixon says teachers will work the theme of peaceful resolution into their instruction. Students will also have a mix-it-up lunch, where they are required to sit with someone they do not know.

Meanwhile, a principal at a rural Granville County school says he's had his ears to the ground, but hasn't heard his students planning any events.

"I think it's going to be pretty quiet around here," said Brian Mathis, of Granville Central High School.