How Henrico’s plan for April student walkout differs from March walkout

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — One month after students around the country walked out of class to honor those killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and rally for stricter gun laws, another student walkout is planned for April 20.

This time, however, the way Henrico Schools plan to handle the walkout is different.

During the March walkout, Henrico Schools said they would work with students, school faculties, and law enforcement to address these “unique circumstances” of the event.  In most cases, students stayed on campus during the walkout.

The April walkout encourages students to leave campus, so Henrico Schools said a different set of rules will apply.

Henrico Schools sent the following information to families Monday, April 16:

Dear Henrico families, Students across the nation – including some students in Henrico County high schools – have asserted that they are planning to walk out of class (or not attend school) on Friday, April 20, which is the 19th anniversary of the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

Organizers acknowledge that the local event – which is expected to include a rally at Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond and end at the Virginia State Capitol – is a political protest regarding gun control and/or the prevention of gun violence. We would like to answer these related questions:

What is the position of Henrico County Public Schools on this latest planned walkout?

Unlike the student-led walkout that took place on March 14 involving large numbers of students assembling peacefully in memory of the victims of the Parkland, Fla. shootings, the April 20 event may involve students planning to leave their respective school campuses and not return. While we continue to be supportive of students and their right to demonstrate peacefully, we will neither condone nor support the act of leaving school grounds without permission during the instructional day.

If a student leaves school or does not attend school in order to participate, will it be an excused absence?

If a student provides a written note signed by a parent or guardian, then the absence will be excused. School personnel may contact the parent or guardian to verify the authenticity of any note.

What is our expectation of students on April 20?

We expect a normal instructional day, and that students will attend class for the full day. Again, students who do not attend school or those who need to leave school during the instructional day must provide a written note signed by a parent or guardian in order to receive an excused absence. Students who either leave school grounds (or do not attend school) without permission will face a consequence in accordance with the Code of Student Conduct.

What if students walk out of class without permission but decide to remain on campus?

Normal disciplinary procedures would be considered and applied as needed. All students must remember that disorderly conduct that disrupts school operations is not acceptable and is a clear violation of the Code of Student Conduct.

What is the role of Henrico County Public Schools employees?

Employees will not be active participants in any walkout. School Board policy precludes employees from engaging in any activity supporting or opposing a partisan political cause while on duty, while on school property during school hours, or while representing the school division.

As a parent or guardian, what can I do before the walkout takes place?

We encourage families to have a discussion with their student(s) about his or her beliefs related to the walkout. Discuss your family’s expectations for their actions and behavior on April 20. Remind students that their school division is interested in respecting their wishes but cannot support the act of leaving school property, or being absent from their assigned location, without permission.

I still have specific questions and concerns about my student and/or my student’s school. Where do I go for answers?

Your school principal will be happy to discuss additional questions or concerns.