Member of Portsmouth School Board throws support behind students planning to walk out of class

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - It was the first Portsmouth School Board regular meeting since a school shooting left 17 dead, Feburary 14.

Thursday night, board member Lakeesha Atkinson took the opportunity to publicly announce her support for any students planning to participate in a national walkout on March 14.

The walkout will fall on the one month anniversary of the shooting in Parkland, Fla. with students calling for tougher gun laws and it's expected to last 17 minutes for each victim of the shooting.

Atkinson's support comes as administrators in school districts around the country have threatened punishment for students planning to walk out.

"The students are the future so anytime they jump on board an issue, especially involving the school system, we should support them and stand in solidarity with them, and allow them to exercise their freedom of speech," said Atkinson.

Portsmouth Public Schools sent News 3 the following statement in response:

We are aware of an upcoming school walkout protest. We understand students' and staff members' right to free speech. The administration will remain neutral as required by law. Senior staff members will meet next week to address the steps we may need to take to ensure safe school operations.