- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hundreds of students in the D.C. area and thousands more across the country plan to walk out of their classes Friday to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.

Local students have chosen to organize a school walkout to call for tighter regulations on gun ownership, but school officials have issued mixed policies on it — the second student walkout for gun control in as many months.

Fairfax County schools issued a guidance letter to principals stating that staff could not restrict students’ right to freedom of speech, but those who leave school grounds “may be subject to discipline.” The statement said students would be permitted to leave with a signed note from their parents.

D.C. Public Schools also will allow parents to sign their children out of class, but principals warned in a letter to parents that “any student who leaves class will receive an unexcused absence for any periods they miss.”

Arlington County Public Schools Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy also warned parents in a letter in March that students who leave school Friday will be marked with “an unexcused absence unless parents provide written permission.”

However, Washington Leadership Academy — a D.C. charter school — is using the walkout as a field trip for its ninth-graders, who have been studying social movements like Black Lives Matter and the civil rights movement.

“Our kids have been looking at this in a very two-dimensional context, reading articles and watching videos,” Jaishri Shankar, a ninth-grade teacher, told The Washington Times. “We had kids asking, saying, ‘We would love to participate in this.’”

Academy students will gather at school in the morning to take attendance, and the ninth- and 10th-graders will be able to leave together. Ms. Shankar stressed that participation is optional, but the school felt a duty to help student organizers make the trip a possibility.

“If we really want to walk the walk for building students to be ready to lives of public leadership, I think that starts at school,” the teacher said.

Students nationwide walked out of schools on March 14 to mark the one-month anniversary of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and adults were gunned down. The National School Walkout featured rallies calling for more and stricter gun control.

The walkout to mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, however, won’t include student protests at the Colorado school that changed how the nation viewed shootings.

Just as it has done every year since the April 20, 1999, shooting killed 12 students and a teacher, Columbine High School will be closed.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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