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1:12 AM Fri, Dec. 14th

Bergner: Unity from students, administrators key to a safe walkout

Column: Raising Prescott

Since a gunman pulled a fire alarm in a quiet hallway of a Florida high school nearly a month ago, students across the country have begun to rise up.

Shouting from the rooftops, it is our young students who have taken up the fight and quickly become vocal advocates for gun control.

Nationwide walkouts are scheduled for Wednesday, when organizers of the Women’s March have called for a 17-minute protest, one for each of the 17 students and staff members killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Wednesday is March 14, exactly one month since tragedy struck the hearts of not only those who surrounded the quiet Florida community on that day, but across the nation.

It is the first large-scale, coordinated demonstration for students of all ages, not just college, to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Will schools in Prescott, Prescott Valley and in surrounding areas participate? That has yet to be seen. Local districts have spring break this week, so school officials have that worry off their plate, at least for now. But with future walkouts scheduled across the U.S., eventually, it may happen.

Superintendents and administrators are certainly in a bind. If students are planning a demonstration, how do they figure out how to allow it during school hours? How do they protect their students? And, more importantly, what is going to be the aftermath of such a protest?

Students were reassured last week by dozens of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, MIT, the University of Connecticut and UCLA, that their participation in a walkout won’t affect their chances of getting admitted.

Can you imagine hundreds of Prescott High School students spilling out of the doors and onto Ruth St.? That can’t be safe for anyone.

Denise Lavoie, a reporter for the Associated Press, said in the article, “Student walkout over guns poses balancing act for schools,” that some administrators have taken a hard line, promising to suspend students who walk out. Others are using a “softer approach,” working closely with their students to set up a specific spot on campus where victims of the Florida shooting can be remembered, and where they can express their views about school safety and gun control.

So what’s the best solution? If you’re a student reading this right now, I implore you to find a way to express yourself without putting anyone, or yourself, in danger. Talk with your student leadership, your teachers, your principal, and together, come to a decision that works for all parties involved.

There is righteousness in unity.

The ACLU has already gone on record saying despite each school’s code of conduct and disciplinary policies, students are required to go to school by law, thus allowing administrators to discipline them for unexcused absences.

A superintendents association, which is supporting an April 20 walkout, drafted a list of suggestions including holding a teach-in, a school-led walkout to a spot on campus, or a session on bullying.

Whatever is decided, remember what President Jimmy Carter said in 1979: “We know the strength of America. We are strong. We can regain our unity. We can regain our confidence. We are the heirs of generations who survived threats much more powerful and awesome than those that challenge us now.”

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email bbergner@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.