Canton Central students planning walkout March 14 to honor students killed in Florida school shooting
Thursday, March 8, 2018 - 11:51 am

By MATT LINDSEY

CANTON – Canton Central School students have planned a walkout March 14 in honor those killed in the massacre at the Parkland high school earlier this year and to protest gun violence.

For 17 minutes at 10 a.m. students, school faculty and supporters around the world will walk out of their schools, and those participating are encouraged to wear orange to show support for gun control.

“Superintendents discussed the nation-wide movement for student walk-outs during the regular superintendents meeting at our Canton building last week,” said Rebekah Grim, manager of communications and print services at St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES.

One major concern for BOCES and school district officials, Grim says, is safety. “We have serious trepidations about publicizing the date and time of a walk-out, and then allowing students to gather outside the secure building where they are vulnerable,” she said.

The general consensus is that schools should preserve and protect students rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, while maintaining decorum and keeping everyone safe, Grim said.

"The recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida and other acts of violence on school campuses across the nation over the past few decades have galvanized student-led civic engagement, including the idea of school walk-outs,” Grim said.

Several nationwide walkouts are planned in March and April.

Grim said students who have approached school officials regarding their plans for walk-outs have been well-intentioned and respectful.

“SLL BOCES supports students’ Constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and free expression,” Grim said. “Our goal in responding to walk-out plans and other forms of peaceful assembly is to focus on teaching and learning, while providing guidance and planning to support safety. The Supreme Court established in Tinker v. Des Moines that students have such rights, provided they do not create a substantial disruption to the educational process.”

Grim says the top priority of the school is to support the academic and social-emotional needs of students while maintaining a safe and orderly learning environment for all.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with any student or student group to discuss appropriate and creative ways to advocate for causes that are important to them while at school,” she said. “Students can contact school administrators at any time.”

“It’s important to know that conduct that disrupts school operations is not acceptable and will be handled in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct,” Grim added.

Grim said she was not aware of organized walk-outs in any other St. Lawrence County schools at this time, but superintendents and their boards have discussed the possibility and are prepared to respond according to their own Codes of Conduct.