TWIN FALLS — Students across the country are participating in a national walkout Wednesday to push for better school safety including some in the Magic Valley.
As part of the National School Walkout, students nationwide are leaving class at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes — one minute for each person killed in February during a mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school. The purpose is to protest gun violence and urge Congressional lawmakers to take action.
Here in south-central Idaho, walkouts are planned at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls and Wood River High School in Hailey. Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls will give students a 15-minute break from classes, giving them the option to gather if they choose.
“Districtwide with events that are being planned, we want to make sure they remain non-political and are an outlet for students to express their feelings,” Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner said Friday.
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A handful of other schools are considering alternate activities — such as assemblies or acts of kindness — in lieu of a walkout. At Xavier Charter School in Twin Falls, student leaders worked with school administrators to plan a student safety awareness assembly for later this month.
In Twin Falls, “we have not heard a lot of desire from our student population about participating” in a walkout, Craner wrote in a statement. If students decide to walk out of class, they’ll be excused if their parents contact their school — preferably, in advance. Otherwise, it will be counted as an unexcused absence.
School officials in Cassia County, Buhl, Murtaugh and Valley (Hazelton) say they’re not aware of any plans for a walkout at their schools. Other schools didn’t respond to inquires Friday from the Times-News.
Here are details about what’s planned across south-central Idaho:
College of Southern Idaho
CSI’s Student Senate is planning a “Walk for Change” at the Twin Falls college campus. Students who want to participate will meet at a grassy area north of the Taylor Building.
“We will have 17 minutes of silence for the 17 victims,” CSI student body president Lance Teske wrote in a letter to students. That will be followed by a “brief inspiring address,” he said, and student leaders will lead a march along the perimeter of campus, with posters provided.
“This is not to push any political agenda,” Teske wrote in the letter. “We are coming together in unity to make a statement; in memory of the tragedies, and to start a discussion for change, because students are still dying.”
During a CSI board of trustees meeting Feb. 26, trustees heard information about student leaders considering a walkout. At the time, a decision hadn’t been made yet.
At the meeting, board chairman Bob Keegan said board members’ hearts go out to the victims of the Florida school shooting. If CSI students organize a walkout, he said, “I think you’ll have the full support of the board.”
Wood River High School (Hailey)
Students at Wood River High School in Hailey are planning a walkout. They received approval from school principal John Pearce, and it will happen during an advisory class period.
Students can choose to participate or stay in their advisory class, the Blaine County School District said in a statement Tuesday.
“Students have stated that their goal is to have an opportunity for all students to express their points of view on school safety,” according to the statement. “The gathering is not about gun rights. It is about school safety and student voice as students grapple with their role in world and their ability to impact their surroundings. We are proud of our students who want to learn how to exercise their First Amendment rights and express their points of view, regardless of what viewpoint they have.”
Hailey police will stop anyone trying to enter the area, such as for CSI classes, to the Blaine County Recreation District or the region IV music competition, the school district said. They’ll be allowed to enter once they explain the purpose of their visit.
Xavier Charter School (Twin Falls)
Classes will continue as normal Wednesday and any absences will follow the school’s normal attendance policies, administrator Gary Moon wrote in a Thursday letter to parents. That “may appropriately include consequences such as Saturday School or suspension if there have been past truancy issues.”
Students who want to participate in a walkout in a different manner can be excused and checked out of school, but aren’t allowed to stay on campus.
School administrators and student leaders worked to create an alternative event to the walkout — a student safety awareness assembly for seventh through 12th graders at 10 a.m. March 21. Parents are invited to attend.
Student leaders are also planning a “Share Your Light Week” to encourage acts of kindness.
In Wendell, school leaders have considered how to plan for the possibility of school walkouts.
“We have decided that the best approach is to be proactive with our students to plan engaging activities that are meaningful,” Superintendent Greg Lowe wrote in an email to the Times-News. “By doing so, we feel that attendance will not be a major issue.”
He sent information to school principals with guidance about planning an event that takes the ages of students into consideration, allows for alternate ways for student expression without disrupting learning, something non-partisan and non-religious, involves students in planning and is communicated to parents.
Lowe didn’t have details Friday about what schools are planning.