Arkansas schools lose momentum for walkouts

The reaction to last month’s student walkout, organized as a memorial for those killed in the Parkland shooting and as a protest for stricter gun laws, was mixed among Arkansas schools.

While administrators at eStem and Hall High organized the event on their respective campuses, the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts’ director, Corey Alderdice, called the walkout “disruptive” and warned that any students participating would face the consequences of an unexcused absence.

Yesterday’s walkout¬†was scheduled to last from 10 a.m. to the end of the school day, but had fewer participants than last month’s walkout.

“Students at ASMSA have not articulated an intent to participate in the National Day of Action scheduled for April 20,” Alderdice told the Forum. “The national organizers of the event have encouraged students who are interested in the prevention of gun violence to consider many ways to engage on this subject beyond walkouts.¬† Should ASMSA students be absent from class, the incident will be addressed according to the policies agreed upon in the Student Handbook.”

Though eStem High coordinated a walkout with its students on March 14, director Johnecia Howard said students at her school had not expressed any interest in the April 20 National Day of Action.

“I think everybody would be comfortable with the last walkout that we did,” Howard said. “We haven’t heard any of our student groups or any of our individual students … want to participate.”

However, the director said that any student who walked out would not be subject to punishment, as long as they returned to class.

Yesterday at Central High, another school where administrators worked with students to facilitate the walkout last month, Principal Nancy Rousseau led students in a moment of silence for school shooting victims.

Mills, Robinson, Maumelle, and Sylvan Hills took a preliminary approach to the National Day of Action, much as they did last time.

“We have not heard yet from any of our student groups that they have any desire to walk out,” said Deb Roush, executive director of communications for Pulaski County Special School District. “But if they do, we will probably do it much like we did the last time and just kind of work with the students to determine what their angle is, what they’re looking to accomplish, and how the school leadership and the students and parents can work to make sure that we honor what they want to do, but that we also keep them safe.”

Greenbrier High, the same school which paddled three students in March for participating in the walkout, hosted a school-wide memorial for the victims of the Columbine shooting called 13 Seconds of Silence. Jerusalem Greer, the mother of one of the paddled students, said that her son and a group of his peers met with administration to convince them to hold this event.

Cabot High did not receive any student participation, although Principal Henry Hawkins says four students from its freshman academy walked out. Hawkins said the students will receive three days of in-school suspension, which is the standard punishment for leaving campus.

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