VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Virginia Beach City Public Schools sent a message to families Monday evening regarding a plans for a student walkout protesting gun violence that is set to take place next week.
The walkout is planned by a national organization and will take place on March 14, one month after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.
The message was sent to News 3 by a parent of a VBCPS student. While the school district recognizes this as "an opportunity for young people to exhibit civil responsibility," it notes that schools must comply with policies and regulations.
Students will neither be encouraged nor discouraged from participating in the walkout, though if they choose to do so, they will receive an unexcused absence for the missed class period.
If the walkout does happen at any Virginia Beach school, staff will be deployed to ensure student safety, and those who are not teaching at the time of the demonstration will supervise students at a designated area at the school.
Due to security concerns, community members - including parents - will not be allowed to participate in any student-led walkout on school property.
"Ultimately, decisions regarding student participation in events such as this are personal for each family," the statement reads. "Our hope is that this information will be helpful to you as your family talks about walkouts and the many other ways in which students can make their voice heard on important topics."
News 3 reached out to local school districts about the walkout and here is what some responded with:
- Newport News: Students will not be penalized. Letting students exercise their right to protest.
- Portsmouth: The administration will remain viewpoint-neutral. However, we acknowledge students’ and staff members’ right to free speech. Senior staff members and principals are still working through the steps they said they may need to take to ensure safe school operations in the event of a protest.
- Camden County: Students will be allowed to walk. They will be supervised in a safe environment. There will be no consequences for students who walk.
- James City/Williamsburg: Allowing students 17 minutes to walk. There will be no consequences for students who peacefully protest. If they leave campus or cause disturbance there will be disciplinary actions but that will be up to each school. There will be designated areas for the students to walk.
- Isle of Wight County: Holding a planning meeting March 7. They are leaning towards letting students walk in a designated area.
- Suffolk: Have put a plan in place to ensure student safety. Each school has designated a meeting location in advance and will have a plan in place for supervising students. In addition, due to safety concerns, participation will be limited to enrolled students and staff. The Suffolk Police Department will be present at each school for added security during this time.
- Hampton: Staff will neither encourage nor discourage student participation. Students who choose to walk out will be expected to do so in a civil and respectful manner and not interrupt instruction. There will be a designated area on school grounds where students may gather, and designated staff will be present to monitor student safety. Members of the community, including parents, will not be allowed to participate in any student-led walkout on school grounds.
- Chesapeake: High school administrators have allowed an event on March 14 that is not the walkout. Instead, it is a student-led initiative that was organized to honor the students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and is not related to any gun control protest.