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Twin County school districts join walkout movement

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    Students and parents embrace after the mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018. On March 8, the Broward County sheriff’s office released audio recordings of 10 from more than 70 emergency calls received during the shooting at the school.
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    A Broward County sheriff’s deputy with the K-9 unit patrols outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., as students arrive on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Students on Wednesday made an emotional return to the classroom, stepping inside the school where 17 people were killed and thousands of other lives in this South Florida suburb were irrevocably altered two weeks ago.
March 12, 2018 11:45 pm

High school students from across the Twin Counties plan to walk out of classrooms as part of a national event Wednesday to show solidarity for students who were killed in the mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, one month ago.

Fourteen students and three staff members were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

Nikolas Jacob Cruz, 19, was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 attempted murders in connection with the shootings, according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Some students have planned 17-minute walkouts — one minute for each victim — to protest gun violence or rally for school safety while others will hold assemblies to remember the 17 victims of the attack.

COLUMBIA COUNTY

At Hudson Junior-Senior High School, several students are planning to walk out Wednesday at 10 a.m. Students will observe a moment of silence in memory of the victims who died in the Parkland shooting and speak about the importance of safety in schools.

Hudson High senior Kacey Crast, 17, of Hudson, said she and several students worked with the school board to plan a walkout. The motivation for the walkout is not political, but inspired to increase awareness for safe schools, she said.

“We recently had a bomb threat and we thought that some people are not taking it [school safety] seriously enough,” Crast said Monday.

Hudson High was placed under shelter-in-place March 6 after officials found a written bomb threat in the school. The shelter-in-place was lifted after about two-and-a-half hours, but police are reviewing video-camera footage to determine who left the note, Hudson police Chief L. Edward Moore said last week.

“We just wanted to do whatever little we can do to raise attention about school safety,” Crast said.

A group of Germantown high school students will hold a remembrance event beginning at 10 a.m. for the 17 victims of the shooting at Parkland.

Students will be invited to go to the cafeteria and a slideshow will be screened for 17 minutes — each minute marked for a victim of the attack.

The remembrance will be open to all 240 students in 7th through 12th grades.

“We’re very proud of our students,” Germantown School District Superintendent Susan Brown said Monday.

At Chatham High School, a student group called the CHS Youth Empowerment Walkout, is joining the Enough National School Walkout movement led by Women’s March organizers Wednesday at 10 a.m. The protest is also planned to last 17 minutes.

Middle and high school students at Ichabod Crane Central School District have organized a school safety rally.

“We will be asking students to sign up ahead of time so that we have an idea of how many students will attend,” Ichabod School District Superintendent Michael Vanyo said. “The principal is meeting with student leaders, and we’re going to send home a letter to parents today [Monday] to give them an idea of what is going on.

“What we’re not going to do is let people leave campus. And we’re asking students to sign up ahead of time so we can get an idea of how many students will be participating.”

Students will not be allowed to leave school property for safety reasons, Vanyo said.

The rally will provide a teachable moment and a good learning experience for the students, Vanyo said.

GREENE COUNTY

Students at Windham-Ashland-Jewett Central School are planning to add their voices to the national movement demanding stricter gun control laws with a walkout Wednesday at 10 a.m., according to an email from the activist group Mountaintop Progressives.

The school administration is threatening to suspend students who participate, according to a statement from the Mountaintop Progressives. The group is encouraging people to support the students by showing up at the school Wednesday and gathering across the street in solidarity.

Windham-Ashland-Jewett School District Superintendent John Wiktorko could not be reached for comment.

Windham-Ashland-Jewett school policy forbids students to disrupt classes or walk on school grounds without authorization, with a caveat that the policy “is not meant to limit freedom of speech or peaceful assembly,” according to the student handbook.

“We had a discussion as a board about the best way to support the young people, parents and the community-at-large,” Board of Education member Susan Simpfenderfer said, adding safety is a concern with today’s impending snowstorm.

Simpfenderfer referred all other questions to Wiktorko.

About 60 high school students were signed up as of Monday to walk out the front doors and circle the flag pole Wednesday at Coxsackie-Athens Central School.

The walkout is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., Coxsackie-Athens junior and walkout organizer Sydney Weinstein, 16, said.

“We hope to have 17 minutes of silence and release 17 balloons for the people who died in the shooting in Florida last month,” Weinstein said. “We saw walkout protests on social media. We felt like it was a great idea. The kids who died were 16 and 17 — the same age as us. We want to show our support for them and remember them.”

The point of the protest will not be political, but about remembering victims and calling attention to school safety, Weinstein said.

“We just really want to get the point across that students should go to school and worry about tests and quizzes,” she said. “They shouldn’t have to worry about losing their lives. We’re not really protesting. We are just remembering 17 lives that are lost.”

Counting Wiktorko, several school superintendents did not return multiple requests for comment Monday, including those in Taconic Hills, New Lebanon, Hudson, Cairo-Durham, Hunter-Tannersville and Greenville central school districts.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to apurcell@thedailymail.net, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.