More area school systems prepare for Wednesday walkout

Students from Montgomery Blair High School leave class bound for the U.S. Capitol to call for changes to gun laws. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

WASHINGTON — Wednesday will mark one month’s time since a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students of middle and high schools across the D.C. area are prepared to join a national demonstration, walking out of classes at 10 a.m. for a 17-minute protest of gun violence.

“We support the spirit of the National School Walkout,” wrote Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools, in a letter to school leaders.

Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, in Maryland, and Arlington County and Alexandria City schools, in Virginia, are among the jurisdictions backing the student-led effort.

All students are required to stay on school grounds and return to classes at the end of the 17-minute protest.

“As educators, part of our role is to help teach our students how to actively engage in civic conversations and the importance of being engaged in our democratic process,” Superintendent Patrick Murphy of the Arlington County Public Schools wrote in a letter to families.

In D.C., public school principals are notifying parents that high school or middle school students who walk out of classes Wednesday will be regarded as absent unless parents provide a note that their child intends to participate in the protest.

Frederick County Public Schools are not allowing its students to take part in the nationwide protest. The school system said it’s committed to helping students find their voice in the national debate, but it doesn’t condone a student walkout Wednesday due to safety concerns.

Fairfax County Public School Superintendent Scott Bradbrand said the school system “does not oppose, nor endorse” Wednesday’s planned student walk out.

In a letter to school families and staff, Brabrand said without encouraging or discouraging student participation, principals at middle and high schools should work with students to find peaceful and safe ways to protest with minimal disruption to the school day. Teachers have been told to remain in class with students who do not participate.

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