Valley schools differ in plans for national school walkout

Staff report

School districts are split in their support of a national walkout supporting school safety.

Today, students across the country are invited to take part in a national walkout supporting changes in gun laws and school safety, as well as honoring the 17 people killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

It’s estimated there are nearly 3,000 schools participating in the walkout nationwide.

Locally, school districts differ in how they plan to approach the event. Some districts don’t condone students walking out, while others will support the walkout.

Youngstown City Schools CEO Krish Mohip said allowing students to walk out is important because “it’s a student-driven event and allows students to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

“It’s an issue students feel strongly about, and we support their efforts,” Mohip said.

Canfield schools leaders, however, feel involving themselves in supporting or refuting the walkout is too political.

“The Canfield Local School District remains neutral in all political rhetoric,” said Canfield Superintendent Alex Geordan. “The planned events are student-driven, and the students asked the administration to not be involved with the plans. We want all students to feel comfort in a collective voice and do not want them to feel pressured by media presence.”

The walkout will begin at 10 a.m. and is expected to last 17 minutes – one minute for each Florida shooting victim. Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas have requested schools participate on the one-month anniversary of the shooting.

Canfield, Lowellville and Warren are among the districts not participating in the walkout, though school representatives have assured students they will have a safe place to walk to.

The following schools have either planned events or are allowing students to simply walk out:

Austintown has planned a safety assembly for Austintown Middle School and Fitch High School at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Students and staff will practice for an evacuation drill, then meet at a specified area on campus. They will hear from administration and Austintown police about school safety procedures in place. The time will also be used to honor the 17 victims.

In addition, students will be able to donate money to a local mental-health agency. Students may donate $1 to wear black for mental- health awareness.

In Boardman, high school students will have an event focused on school safety beginning with a video announcement from the school’s student dialogue committee. Students will practice an emergency lockdown, during which 17 chimes will sound in honor of the shooting victims. The event will then honor safety services workers.

Campbell students who choose to participate will walk out at 10 a.m. Students who remain in the classes will continue with their education.

Cardinal Mooney High School at 10 a.m. today will honor the event with a “stay in” assembly. In the school’s courtyard, 2545 Erie St., students will present a speech about inclusion and reassert their commitment to the Sandy Hook Promise, a program promoting nonviolence and anti-bullying in schools. The Victory Bell will be rung 17 times and a prayer then moment of silence will follow.

In Howland, students will gather in the front hall of the high school, 200 Shaffer Drive NE, for 17 minutes to bring awareness to violence in schools.

Hubbard students will have a candlelight ceremony to honor the 17 victims at 10 a.m. at the high school auditorium, 350 Hall Ave. SE. There will be 17 speakers (14 students, three adults), who will light 17 candles as students say a line representing the lives of each person killed in the Florida shooting. At Hubbard Middle School, students will honor the victims by having “Honor 17” Day. The event is being organized through the middle school student council. Students will be asked to complete 17 acts of kindness to honor of the victims.

Liberty students will have a candlelight ceremony to honor the 17 at 10 a.m. in the high school auditorium, One Leopard Way. This assembly is optional. Students who wish not to participate will remain in their classroom. Students will return to class at 10:20 a.m.

Lordstown students have chosen to paint the school’s spirit rock orange as a nod to school safety. On the stone, they have plans to write “Stand with Stoneman” and each victim’s name. Students will also have the opportunity to write letters to state legislators about issues that are important to them. Students have requested to participate in roundtable discussions on such issues as school safety and mental-health services. The students will also pause for 17 seconds of silence during each period of school. At 10 a.m., students who wish to be part of the walkout will line the parking lot side of the building as other students go to Columbus to deliver letters directly to legislators at the statehouse.

In Niles, the high school’s National Honor Society is organizing 17 minutes of silence. National Honor Society members will (via the public address system) share names and information about each one of the people killed in Florida. NHS has asked that students remain in their classrooms and use the time to reflect. Students are also encouraging one another to wear orange to promote safety in schools.

Poland Seminary High School will observe a moment of silence about 10 a.m., with additional time for reflection or grieving for students who may need it. Students will then attend an assembly featuring state Rep. John Boccieri of Poland, D-59th.

Struthers High School students have the option of attending an event at 10 a.m. that was organized by the high school student council. It will include a moment of silence for the Parkland victims, as well as speakers touching on safety. Additionally, the district purchased bracelets for staff and students to wear, and all are encouraged to wear orange.

In Youngstown, Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past students are organizing a 17-minute school walkout/rally at the Youngstown city high schools at 10 a.m. to honor the 17 people, and to ask Congress and the Ohio General Assembly to pass legislation that bans assault rifles and require a background check for anyone purchasing a gun.

Youngstown State University Student Government Association will organize a 17-minute walkout at 10 a.m. Students plan to advocate for mental-health awareness and gun law reform by gathering at the rock.

Contributors: Staff reporters Graig Graziosi, Jordyn Grzelewski, Billy Ludt, Samantha Phillips, Amanda Tonoli, Justin Wier

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