- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

What are your children walking into?

Across the nation, kids are scheduled to walk out of school on Wednesday to honor the 17 victims killed in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.

The plan calls for students to spend 17 minutes reciting the victims’ names and return to class. Supporters around the globe are participating, too.

To be sure, it’s a noteworthy effort. Yet parents need to know whether their children plan to attend and what they may represent at the walkout.

Rebels with a cause are one thing. Rebels without a cause can turn an idyllic proposal into a damnable situation.

A recitation of names and moment of silence aren’t the only agenda items.

Understandably, the youths are trying to insert themselves into the gun-control debate, and well they should. After all, it was one of their own, Nikolas Cruz, who armed himself and began gunning down their schoolmates and teachers. And trying to make sure the gunman was no longer inside the schoolhouse, the students had to walk out with their weapon-free hands in the air — a humbling experience for innocent teens and adults alike.

Meanwhile, adults squabble in the aftermath. Arm teachers? Raise the age for firearm purchases? Ban bump stocks? Require background checks?

And what about the emotional/mental health angle? How do we find out? Whom do we tell? And who’s going to mine and keep track of that database?

Questions also surround school policy regarding the proposed walkout.

Do you know whether your child plans to participate? Will school authorities’ biases stand in the students’ way or penalize them for participating in a walkout? What’s the school district’s policy? Will kids be marked absent if they do not immediately return to class?

School districts in Northern Virginia were all over the place. In Loudoun County, for example, school officials said that while students have the right to freedom of expression, they do not have the right “disrupt instruction or create an unsafe environment.”

Arlington County encouraged its students to participate in the walkout, and officials said they will not be penalized for doing so.

Alexandria officials said: “Students are to be provided safe and supervised assembly points on school property within which to engage in the walkout.” In other words, cage-free eggs, yes; free speech, no.

That the young people’s speeches could be cut short is on the horizon, and because memorializing the 17 victims by mouthing their names isn’t the only thing on the #Enough National School Walkout agenda.

The walkout agenda includes calls for banning assault weapons, expanding background checks and keeping schools “gun-free zones for students, teachers, security, and staff” because “we can’t gloss over the fact that a push for armed security and teachers in schools would disproportionately impact black and brown kids by turning schools into prisons and bringing police brutality into the classroom.”

The complete #Enough National School Walkout demand list is available at WomensMarch.com.

You know those kids are going to be away from their desks for more than 17 minutes. But do you know what they’ll be walking into?

So educate yourself. Ask your schools what their intentions are, and ask your child about her intentions. The 2017 Women’s March was a smackdown, remember.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]


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