Georgia school systems differ in approach to walkouts

What’s Happening?: In the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the first of several nationwide school protests is upon us. Students nationwide are planning several school walkouts in the coming weeks to protest the rise of school shootings and to call on lawmakers to take action to keep schools safe.

When is it Happening?: While some areas have already seen walkouts, a major National School Walkout Day is planned for Wednesday at 10 a.m. A March 24th “March for Our Lives” is planned in Washington D.C., which may have some students out of school to participate, and a school walkout is planned on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. The March 14 walkout is 17 minutes, while details on the April 20 walkout are unclear. Reports vary as to whether it is a full day walkout or a timed walkout coinciding with the start time of the Columbine shooting.

Georgia Schools Respond: Several school systems throughout metro Atlanta and Georgia have made decisions on how to handle to walkouts that range from not allowing the protest to full support, including staff assistance. Safety and the potential to disrupt instructional time are at the forefront of school system responses. A few school systems have said students will face disciplinary action if they choose to walk out of class, while others say they will not punish students Here is what you can expect from your local school system during Wednesday’s protests.

Fulton County: Fulton released a statement in February indicating that walkouts violate their policies and students would face disciplinary action if they chose to participate. However, after facing backlash from parents and students, the school system has said it will be working with students on an alternative to the walkout.

Atlanta Public Schools: In a letter sent by school superintendent Maria Carstarphen, Atlanta Public Schools reminded students and parents that APS was the school district of Martin Luther King Jr., and therefore the school system would be supporting the walkout provided there is a structured plan for it at each school. As long as students plan their protest in advance, there will be no punishment from APS.

DeKalb County: DeKalb County Schools will not discipline students for protesting, as long as the protest is peaceful.

Gwinnett County: While Gwinnett County Schools’ response hasn’t been as enthusiastic about the protests as DeKalb and City of Atlanta, the school system says it will work with students who wish to protest and is in the process of meeting with principals to discuss the best response to the walkout.

Cobb County: Cobb County students who decide to participate in the walkout will face consequences from the school system for “disrupting the normal operation of a school.”

City of Marietta: City Schools of Marietta will support the students’ in their protest and the students will not face disciplinary action.

Forsyth County: Forsyth County, like several other school systems, will allow students to pay their respects to those who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting, as long as it does not disrupt instructional time. The school system is not releasing individual plans for schools due to safety concerns.

Cherokee County: Cherokee County will allow students to protest, provided the protest is supervised by faculty members and doesn’t disrupt students who are not participating in the protest.

Clayton County: Clayton County will work with students who wish to protest. The students will not face disciplinary action.

Douglas County: Douglas County actually had a school walkout last week. With regard to the upcoming school walkout, the school system says while it supports the students’ right to protest, it does not encourage a walkout while school is in session.

Paulding County: Walkouts will not be allowed by Paulding County Schools and ask students to remain in their classrooms.

Fayette County: Fayette County will allow students to protest, but asks that they remain on school grounds. Students will also be disciplined based on the school system’s code of conduct if they cause a disruption.

Henry County: While Henry County Schools will not actively support the student protests, it will not discipline students for participating in them.

Richmond County: While the school system hasn’t decided what it’s exact game plan is, students who protest will not face disciplinary action.

Columbia County: Each individual school will plan structured activities to allow the students an opportunity to voice concerns without causing disruption.

Muscogee County: According to WRBL, the Muscogee County School system is threatening students who walk out of class with suspension or a tribunal hearing. However, the system is requesting that students participate in a walkout alternative called “Speak Up! Sit in.”

Bibb County: Bibb County’s school district says it will not support any disruption of instructional time during the school day and promises a “measured” response to students who cut class to participate in the walkouts. Basically, the consequence to a Bibb County student who participates in the walkout is the same as it would be if they were skipping class.

Whitfield County: Citing safety concerns, Whitfield County will not approve a student walkout.

Originally published Feb. 26, 2018. Updated March 3, March 9, and March 13, 2018.

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