Williamsburg-James City and York county school districts plan increased security measures on middle and high school campuses for a planned student walkout Wednesday.
Students from both school districts and the College of William and Mary will leave class at 10 a.m. Wednesday for 17 minutes as part of a nationwide walkout to stand in solidarity with the students and victims of the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
As a safety measure, W-JCC will limit community access to the high schools and middle schools, and students will not be released during the walkout. Betsy Overkamp-Smith, W-JCC spokeswoman, said the doors likely will reopen again at about 10:30 a.m., but that time could vary depending on how long it takes students to re-enter the school.
“We are trying to maintain as much order on our campuses and making this a student-only event,” said Betsy Overkamp-Smith, W-JCC spokeswoman.
"The James City County Police Department collaborated with W-JCC Schools to address security concerns for the National School Walkout Day on March 14,” said James City County deputy police Chief Steve Rubino. “The schools have identified designated areas at each of the middle and high schools to ensure the safest possible environment for students who choose to participate … James City County Police will have an officer on site at each school and has planned with the schools to address any concerns that may arise."
Students from Lafayette, Warhill, Jamestown, York and possibly Bruton high schools, as well as Toano and Hornsby middle schools plan to participate in the walkout.
W-JCC issued a statement that there will be no consequences for students who participate in the walkout.
“While we do not sanction this walk-out, we respect the way our students are thoughtfully planning their participation,” the statement said.
While students who peacefully assemble will not face any consequences and will be allowed to make up missed class work, students who leave campus or are disruptive will be subject to appropriate disciplinary actions.
The walkout comes one month after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Fla., and the 17 minutes represent one minute for each life lost there.
Katherine Goff, York County Schools spokeswoman, said the division is working to develop plans that meet both the division's responsibility to provide a safe learning environment for all students while recognizing the rights of students and staff.
York County schools are preparing for students to participate in walkouts. The district announced it would not punish students participating in the walkout as long as they obeyed the school’s rules, including dress code and any possible direction of school staff. They also plan to have some faculty members stationed in areas where they expect students to gather. The schools will not allow parents or other community members to participate in the walkout because of safety concerns.
“Our intent is to meet both the division’s responsibility to provide a safe, secure learning environment for all students while recognizing the rights of students as outlined in the division’s Student Handbook & Conduct Code as well as the School Board Policy Manual,” said an email sent out to parents Thursday.
The protests here are part of a nationwide walk-out movement #Enough, organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, a group organized by those who planned the Women’s March in Washington. The movement has gained traction through social media. Schools from Scotch Plains, New Jersey to Northridge, California plan to join in the protest. There are more than 2,000 walkouts registered through womensmarch.com, but since, for instance, none of the W-JCC schools are listed on the website, it is likely more are planned.
Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.