Orlando-area students to take part in national walkouts 19 years after Columbine

Classes canceled Friday at Columbine High as remembrance tradition continues

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Nearly 20 years after the shooting at the Colorado high school, students at Columbine High School will stay home Friday, while others across the country participate in walkouts in an effort to protest gun violence.

Classes at Columbine High School will be canceled Friday, as they have been every year on April 20 since the 1999 shooting.

While those who attend the Colorado high school stay home to remember the lives lost in the tragedy, students at schools all across the country, including those in some Orlando-area school districts, will leave class to push for gun control.

Below is a list of statements from Central Florida school district officials regarding students’ plans to protest Friday:

Marion County 

"This Friday, public high school students in Marion County have the opportunity to exchange ideas and opinions when it comes to school safety. These trades of philosophies are structured around citizenship and responsible civic participation.
Instead of walking out of class, Marion County students will constructively use a 30-minute time period to exchange ideas, discuss differing opinions, and offer hard-thought solutions on how our community should address school tragedies like the Parkland, Florida shooting in February.
Just days after that shooting, Marion County Superintendent Dr. Heidi Maier announced April 20 would offer students a civic opportunity and student-led activities to openly discuss and safely voice their concerns for school safety in today’s world.
Marion County’s seven traditional public high school principals have worked with student leaders to tailor activities for their respective campuses, realizing what one campus wants is different than what another campus wants. Schools and students will recognize the difference of opinions in their student bodies during events and activities closed to the public. For safety reasons, students will not be permitted to leave campus during these specific times.
A civic resources guide has been available at www.marionschools.net for several weeks now, providing students resources and ideas for potential activities for this Friday."

--Marion County Public School spokesperson

Volusia County

"This is a student led event and each Volusia high school has a plan based on their students’ interest in participating.  Our student leaders are working in concert with administration to make sure what they are planning is organized, appropriate and safe for the students who wish to participate.
Some schools have been planning their events for weeks; others do not have students planning anything more elaborate than a moment of silence. Students will be required to follow proper procedures if they intend to walk off campus."

--Volusia County Public School spokesperson

Orange County

"Orange County Public Schools is neither encouraging nor discouraging student activities related to proposed walkouts at schools throughout the country on Fri., Apr. 20, 2018. Each school will handle their student requests on an individual basis. There are no plans to discipline students for mutually-agreed upon activities."

--Sara Au, spokeswoman for Orange County Public Schools

Osceola County

"Student walk-outs happened at numerous Osceola middle and high schools in the weeks after the horrible tragedy in South Florida, with no consequence to students who peacefully assembled.  On March 13, Osceola students and parents received a call-out message from Superintendent Pace reminding them of the importance of being in class to ensure that learning continues, and that no additional walk-outs will be permitted for the remainder of the school year.

If students make the choice to leave class on April 20, administrators and teachers will not confront students.  Teachers will continue to teach and educate students. Students will be directed to return to class. 

Our schools are encouraging students to remain focused on learning while knowing that the School Board has been and continues to keep student safety as a top priority.  While we respect the students’ opinions and encourage respectful use of their voices to advocate for positions which they feel strongly about, student learning is our number one priority.  School principals in Osceola County have been and will continue to meet with their student leaders to discuss appropriate avenues to communicate their messages with influential leaders instead of activities that take away instructional time."

--Dana Schafer, Osceola County Public School public information officer

Flagler County

"Just as in past instances, Flagler Schools has worked with student leaders in addressing their concerns. Should students opt to join the latest round of nationwide protests, our faculty and staff will encourage our students to respect and honor the memories of the 17 souls lost in Parkland."

--Flagler County Public School spokesperson

Seminole County

"We'll be handling the same way we have been since the Parkland tragedy. These types of events are student led and student organized.  They are not endorsed by the schools or district.  Students that choose to participate will not be disciplined as long as they do so in the agreed upon area where they will be supervised by school staff/administration and as long as they do not extend past the agreed upon duration.  School and class activities will occur as normal for any student that chooses to not participate.  In addition, students that choose to participate must obviously weigh any information they may miss as a result since instruction will continue to occur in their classes.

We do not anticipate large participation as seen in the past due to the fact many of our students are in the midst of testing as the school year is winding down."

--Michael Lawrence, APR Communications Officer | Office of Communications

News 6 is still waiting to hear back from other Orlando-area districts about the walkouts.

[RELATED: More than 25,000 attend 'March for Our Lives' rally in OrlandoStudents rally in 'March for Our Lives' events in Washington, across US]

Friday’s walkouts come nearly one month after rallies were held nationwide as part of the “March for Our Lives” movement, organized by survivors of the Feb. 14 Parkland school shooting. The April 20 protest is organized by a 16-year-old student in Connecticut through a petition on Change.Org.

While some students at Columbine High School will continue their tradition of holding a day of service on April 20, others are planning a combined vigil and voter registration rally alongside students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for Thursday night.

Both current and former principals at Columbine High School urged other nearby schools to join them in using the day to remember the lives lost in the tragedy, rather than participating in walkouts. 

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