WICHITA,Kan. Update Thursday, March 8:
Student walkout protest graphic by MGN.
A student organizer of a school walkout at Wichita East High School is promising to defy rules set by the Wichita school district.
Wichita Public Schools says students will have to wait until noon to walk out next Wednesday (March 14) as part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness about issues related to gun violence following the shooting at a high school in Parkland Fla. that left 17 people dead.
The walkouts are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. March 14, but Thursday, the Wichita school district says it' will enforce the tardy policy for students who leave during that time.
Instead, they're encouraging students to use the lunch hour to hold rallies and voice their concerns. But some students think that's not enough.
"I know for sure that there are are students here that agree that something needs to be done, and they feel like a walkout is a way to start the conversation, and to start change," says Wichita East Junior Sydney Beal
Beal operates a Twitter page decided to the March 14 walkout.
"Whenever I first heard about the walkout happening, I knew there was going to be consequences, depending on the school," she says.
Thursday afternoon, Wichita Public Schools Superintendent Alicia Thompson outlined those consequences, saying safety is a top concern.
"What we do not want is kids to be walking out of a building or walking out unsupervised," Thompson says. "...That is not a safe way to do, to be able to get their voices heard," Thompson says.
Beal says limiting the walkout time to the lunch hour isn't enough and the point of the walkout is to send a message.
"If they're willing to take a hit, then they're passionate about this and they want change," she says. "That's what we're trying to send a message for."
In one week, students here in Kansas and across the nation plan to walk out of their classrooms as part of a national day of protest.
It's after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Some students plan on walking out next Wednesday (March 14), while many are planning on to do so next month on April 20.
That’s the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.
Matthew Melchor is a senior at Maize High School, and organizing the “March for Our Lives” event later this month (March 24).
"I think it's a good event for anyone to go to, I do think stricter gun laws are a good idea, I'm just fighting for kid's lives, if we can't say 17 kids after Florida is enough, what is enough?" said Melchor.
The March for Our Lives event will be Saturday, March 24 in Wichita.
Before that is the national walkout day on Wednesday, March 14.
The Wichita teacher's union is preparing.
"We have advised teachers and will be advising teachers (to) certainly (not) try to get in front of kids if they're leaving. And from a contractual standpoint of the teachers, it's not an option. If teachers walk out they'll face termination, and they're clear about that," said Steve Wentz of United Teachers of Wichita.
We also asked the union president about district security during the walkout.
"I have all confidence that they'll take care of that, I don't think that is a concern at all, and certainly didn't cross my mind from a security standpoint,” said Wentz.
The Wichita School District spokesperson told us there have been discussions about the walkout and the district is still looking into the possible issues.
Most school districts near Wichita we reached out to didn't respond with how they would handle walkouts.
"They haven't told me whether I should or shouldn't, which is good. Just an opinion from a school or board member would be helpful,” said Melchor.
Again, the Wichita School District has not decided how it will respond to the walkout.
Students are mobilizing on social media, with a Twitter page for “Wichita East Walk Out" saying students will go to the front lawn at 10 a.m. and stay there 17 minutes.
That’s one minute for each life lost during the Florida school shooting.
Parents are also working with students in northeast Kansas to stage walkouts to protest gun violence and to honor the school shooting victims of Parkland, Florida.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports that students and supporters nationwide are planning walkouts on March 14 that last 17 minutes to recognize the 17 deaths from last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Some Lawrence High School students formed a gun-control advocacy group following the Florida shooting and are organizing the protest. Local adults also have been invited to surround the school during the walkout in a show of support and protection.
School district spokeswoman Julie Boyle says that absences associated with the walkout will be excused.
Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com
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