Midway High School students who participate in a 17-minute walkout Wednesday morning will not be disciplined, but demonstrations or disruptions outside that window will not be accommodated, according to a letter school officials sent Tuesday.
Students are planning the walkout as part of a national movement to demand more gun control measures and to honor the 17 people who died in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last month.
Students will gather from 10 to 10:17 a.m. at the flag poles in front of Midway High School.
“Our top priority is to support the academic, social and emotional needs of our students while at the same time maintaining a safe and orderly learning environment,” Principal Alison Smith wrote. “Although the walkout is student-led and not Midway-sanctioned, we respect our students having the opportunity to share their voice in light of recent events in Florida.”
Before the student demonstration was finalized, district officials had planned an event for Wednesday morning to address school safety concerns, so no regular class activities will be skipped by students who participate in the demonstration, district spokeswoman Traci Marlin said.
“Students who extend that time period or leave all together or participate in any other kind of unacceptable behavior won’t be extended the grace the activity provides,” Marlin said. “If they are peacefully assembling as planned, with the appropriate respect that they’ve planned, promised and shown so far, then there shouldn’t be any problems.”
School staff had planned to do a moment of silence in class and to read aloud the names of the people killed in last month’s shooting, and those activities will continue at the same time as the demonstration, the letter states. Students will then fill out a survey from the district about safety protocols, the letter states.
“That’s Midway High School’s plan as a way to keep an important event in the forefront of our minds and improve from it, and students have made their own plans,” Marlin said.
District officials are also evaluating adding more school resource officers or security renovations to school entryways in response to a school threat earlier this year and the Parkland shooting.
It is unclear how many of Midway High School’s 2,000 students plan to participate in the walkout. Officials at other local schools have said students who participate in any walkout will be given unexcused absences.
“I’m glad the letter was sent home. However, I would have liked to see some more detailed information on how the walkout itself will be handled with regards to overall student safety,” Midway High parent Jennifer Kampermann said.
The mother of a freshman, Kampermann expressed her safety concerns on the Tribune-Herald’s Facebook page.
Marlin said school resource officers will be present during the demonstration and the Hewitt Police Department has been alerted as a precaution. Media is also not allowed on the campus until after the demonstration is over, she said.
“There’s not an extreme amount of extra security available for students who are walking off campus,” Marlin said. “We definitely encourage parents to talk about their students and their children about their expectations and desires about what they’ll be doing tomorrow at 10 a.m. If they have concerns about their student participating, then they definitely need to talk to their student about that.”
Walkouts are also expected to be held at Waco ISD’s Tennyson Middle School and ATLAS Academy, and Hillcrest Professional Development School.
The national walkout, coordinated by organizers of the Women’s March and sparked by Parkland shooting survivors, is one of three national demonstrations between now and April 20, according to the Associated Press.
Wacoans will also trek to Heritage Square at 3 p.m. March 24 for a March For Our Lives rally, organized by some of the same Midway students. A national demonstration is planned April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado that left more than 20 dead. It is unclear if a local event will be planned for April.