Administrators in a South Dakota school have canceled a planned student walkout to protest gun violence, following strong negative feedback from parents and community leaders on social media.
Students at Garretson High School intended to stage a walkout on April 20, the date marking the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Garretson senior Peyton Sage, 18, posted the plan on the school’s Facebook group page, which called for students to leave class for a 17-minute period to honor the 17 victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month.
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper reported parents and others in the community deluged the Garretson High Facebook page with angry comments.
“We had over 300 Facebook comments with adults just throwing a huge fit about it,” said Sage. “They were just being really, really rude. They were insulting our intelligence … making us feel like we did not have a voice.”
Garretson principal Chris Long posted a letter on the school’s website stating the event, though it had not yet been formally approved, was officially canceled.
“Through discussion, the students were informed that leaving school for any type of extended walkout would result in disciplinary actions according to the handbook,” wrote Long.
“Instead of a protest that could lead to negative consequences, students were asked to consider using the day to show solidarity and support the victims of the Marjory Stoneman shooting while also advocating our nation’s leaders to find ways to stop the violence in our schools. No agendas, no political platform – just a unified stance saying ‘Keep Schools Safe,'” he added.
The 17-minute plan had been offered as a compromise to a more extended walk out, but due to the negative feedback on Facebook from parents that idea was nixed, lamented Long.
The students “learned a tough lesson,” explained the principal. “A lesson about the monster we call social media. A lesson about how some people can’t wait to pick a fight, throw an insult and tear someone or something down – even before knowing all the facts.”
“This day would have been powerful and effective,” contended the principal. “I was so looking forward to the opportunity for our students to make a difference. Our kids want to be heard, and we are still going to figure out appropriate ways to help our students with that.”
Time reported the #NationalSchoolWalkout movement is calling on students to leave class on April 20.
The “March for Our Lives” group is sponsoring an event in Washington, D.C. and in other locations around the nation on March 24 to protest gun violence in schools and to call for legislative action.
BuzzFeed News reported that liberal groups — including Everytown For Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March LA — are helping students organize the event.
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