Snow postpones school walkout; students still determined

UPDATE: The student walkout at CVU has been rescheduled to 10 a.m. Friday, according to students and school officials. 

Across the country on Wednesday, students participated in mid-morning walkouts to protest school shootings and raise awareness of the need to make changes to gun laws.

At 10 a.m., students left their schools, congregated outside, and participated in 17 minutes of silence as part of the National School Walkout. Each minute of silence represented a life lost in the school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. exactly one month before.

The second Nor’easter in two weeks delivered enough snow to cancel school for Champlain Valley School District students. They had planned walkouts from Champlain Valley Union High School, Charlotte Central School, and Shelburne Community School.

Peter Tremblay is a senior at CVU and a founding member of the Student Justice Committee, an organization at the high school that formed recently and organically by the group of students who were organizing the walkout. He said the group is working with CVU principal Adam Bunting to reschedule the walkout for another day.

Earlier in the week, Bunting sent an email to its community supporting all students who chose to participate in the walkout, though other district schools grappled with the correct way to handle the situation. Shelburne Community School, Charlotte Central School, and Hinesburg Community School are all K-8 schools, which presented a logistical and philosophical challenge for administrators, teachers and parents. While older students may be inspired, younger students may be confused or frightened from discussions relating to school shootings or gun violence, school officials explained.

Administrators from Charlotte and Shelburne schools sent parents an email on March 9 which was generated by the school district and quoted Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe. It asked: “What if, instead of walking out, students committed to talking it out? What if students sat down to discuss with educators all the challenging and critical public issues that have come to the surface over the past few months, and in doing so created a safe space for different points of view? Wouldn’t that leave them better prepared to find solutions to complex problems in the future—problems that current leaders have been unable to solve?”

Follow-up emails in subsequent days responded to parent requests to allow children who wanted to walk out to do so. Charlotte school administrators Stephanie Sumner, Jen Roth, and Cassandra Townsend sent a message on March 13 that stated: “We sincerely appreciate the communication we have had from both students and parents over the past several days. Today, we met with students in grades 5-8 to briefly discuss the intentions of the originally planned talk-in options as well as our understanding that some students plan to walk out. CCS faculty, staff and leadership will be ready to support all students tomorrow morning across a variety of settings and activities.”

Tremblay said that though students are facing an uphill battle to pass gun legislation, he feels supported by the school system and is inspired by his peers as they planned for National Walkout Day. “It’s given me a lot of hope,” he said. “There are a lot of students who are aware that for decades, adults haven’t really done anything. Students are conscious of the fact that they’re attending schools that are for the large part unsafe because of the adults. We have a great opportunity to come together.”

While the rescheduled CVU walkout date has yet to be determined, students are also planning to participate in the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on March 24. An online GoFundMe campaign has already raised almost $8,000 to pay for a bus to take students to the national march.

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