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Hanover students plan to walk out despite warning from administration

HANOVER, Va. – Hanover County School officials said they have plans for all scenarios Wednesday, as students nationwide plan a school walk out to the honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

The  event is planned for 10 a.m. on March 14.

Hanover Schools said they want their students to honor the victims,  but for safety reasons they cannot give the okay to students to leave the school building during instructional hours. The walkout also coincides with SOL testing.  Superintendent Dr. Michael Gill notified parents of the school districts plans in a letter sent Friday. 

“I feel like it’s something that should be done,” said Shannon Salmon, a junior at Lee Davis High School.  She said that despite the official position, she and some classmates plan to proceed with the demonstration.

“We`re just going to start off during our first block then once it hits ten o`clock we`re just going to walk out and stand by the flag pole,” Salmon said.

Hanover schools said discipline for students who ignore school policy will be handled by the individual school in an appropriate manner.

They urged students to continue working with their teachers and principals to make find ways to express their views during time frames that do not impact teaching time, like a choral group at Patrick Henry High School did in between classes a few weeks ago.

"We believe that we can strike a balance between respecting students’ right to free speech, freedom of expression, and civic responsibility and maintaining a safe and productive learning environment.  Without question, there are serious safety concerns associated with allowing students to walk out of school.  However, there are a wide variety of meaningful ways that students can safely express themselves during the school day that is not disruptive, and we’ve already seen several examples of this within our division," said Chris Whitley, a spokesperson for Hanover County Public Schools.

“Half the people think it’s stupid for us to do,” Salmon said.

While some of her classmates and officials do not support the planned walk out, Salmon said many of classmates want to honor the victims in Parkland in their own way.

“I just want them to know we respect all the loss and families down in Florida and that we are praying for them,” she said.

Multiple events planned around Richmond metro

The walkouts are planned in most Richmond metro schools, in both March and April.

"Every high school around Richmond (and the United States) is planning on walking out at 10 a.m. to the front of their school for 17 minutes [on March 14]," Freeman high school student Maxwell Nardi said. "Each minute is to commemorate a victim of the shootings. This isn't a partisan movement, this is a movement to recognize that school shootings are a problem and they need to be stopped."

Richmond school leaders say they are working to keep students on school grounds as student activists join the National School Walkout demonstration on March 14.

“Richmond Public Schools continues to grieve with the Parkland community and stand with them as they work to heal and move forward,” Richmond Public Schools spokesperson Kenita Bowers said in a statement.

Richmond school leaders say they “applaud the student activists” who have stepped up to lead the movement, but the demonstration would pose a safety issue.

“While we wholeheartedly respect every individual’s right to peaceful assembly and free expression, our top priority is to provide a safe teaching and learning environment for all so having large numbers of students walking off campus would pose a significant safety risk for students,” said Bowers.

Richmond principals are working to identify ways for their students to honor the victims and share their views about gun control and school safety in a peaceful manner while remaining on school grounds.