Florence attorney weighs in on national school walkout
Florence County, S.C. (WPDE) —
Creek Bridge High School
Longtime Florence attorney Gary Finklea has weighed in on some school districts not allowing students to walk out of class as a part of the ENOUGH National School Walkout planned for March 14, asking students to walk out of their school buildings at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, one for each Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victim.
Several school districts across the Pee Dee and Grand Strand are taking part in the event, but aren't allowing students to walk out of class.
District administrators said it's disruptive and not safe.
Finklea said students have the right to freedom of speech, but school districts have to maintain control of what's happening in their schools.
"Students do not lose their constitutional right to free speech at the school house gates. So they can exercise the First Amendment right. However, their conduct is regulated against the schools district's desire to maintain control and prevent disruptive activity so they can maintain a good learning environment, for all students. So, we have to weigh the First Amendment right of students to express themselves, as well as the school district's desire and they're in charge, to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment," said Finklea.
He added, "School districts are faced with so many concerns in dealing with these types of issues. You know, one students' First Amendment rights. Another, just an opportunity to for the students to participate in the political process. Three, just to express themselves and get things off their chest. And the school districts have to think about the safety of the students. How are they going to facilitate students walking out? What is that going to do students in other grades? What about students who aren't walking out? And then if the school district facilitates a walkout on this particular event, what prohibits them from walking out of other events?"
Some students said they're okay with not walking out of class and just wanted their voices heard on the matter.
Below is a listing of events planned at school districts across the Pee Dee, Grand Strand and Scotland County:
High school observances in Marion County
Creek Bridge High School
- Students will gather in the gym for a 17 minute protest/walk where their student government will give a short speech to honor the Parkland shooting victims.
Mullins High School
- 17 student council members will light a candle and walk a lap around the gym to honor the victims. Students will also participate in a moment of silence for 17 seconds and then sing together the song, "Lean on Me."
Marion High School
- The school's program, "Why Walk Out When You Can Step Up," will begin with a purpose set by their student body president, then go on to host several speakers. Sheriff Brian Wallace will address how the community can "step up," and the school's Principal Daris Gore will speak to how the school can "step up." Then, 17 student representatives will talk about how students can "step up."
They will conclude with a moment of silence and a slideshow to honor the victims.
The students created their own social media hashtags for the event: #OUTFOXTHEFEAR and #NOFEARINTHESWAMP.
Elementary observances in Florence School District One
Most Elementary schools in Florence School District One including Delmae Elementary, Dewey Carter, Greenwood, McLaurin, North Vista, Savannah Grove, Timrod have reported that they will have a moment of silence.
Other elementary school activities are listed here:
- The school will hold a "BEE" the Change activity with students in grades 3-6. Students will write kind words (they can use when trying to change someone's day for the better) on bee cutouts. These will be hung in sets of 17 around our school.
Lucy T. Davis Elementary
- The school will acknowledge National School Walkout Day in protest of school violence by inviting parents and community members to circle our school for 17 minutes on March 14th. We want to show our students that our community loves, cares and supports them!
- The school will have a moment of silence. Also, the school will ask each homeroom class to collect $17 (one dollar for each victim killed). The money will be donated to purchase library books for their school library in Florida. Moore Intermediate will have its school name on labels to place in the front cover of the books.
- The school is sponsoring a program for the first responders who are charged with protecting our schools. The school is inviting first responders to Walk In to Royall (drop in format). The students and staff are inviting first responders to lunch on Wednesday, March 14th from 10:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Middle School Observances in Florence School District One
Southside Middle School
- An assembly program will be held at 1:30 p.m.
Sneed Middle School
- An assembly program will be held at 10:00 a.m.
Williams Middle School
- 7th grade students will report to the designated area at 9:40 a.m., and 8th grade students will report to the designated area at 11:25 a.m. Student speakers will address the audience. Seventeen representatives will release balloons in honor of the 17 Parkland students.
High school observances in Florence School District One
South Florence High School
- At 9:40 all teachers will show a Bruin News Network video created memorializing the February 14th tragedy.
- After that, teachers will facilitate students making choice of walking out front or remaining inside with supervision.
- Outside, ROTC will lower the flag to half-mast while Taps is played.
- Student Leadership will form a red heart in a designated area.
- A banner which hundreds of students have signed will be unfurled.
- 17 balloons will be released.
- Students will return to class.
- Pictures will be taken, including a drone for video so we can create an empathetic message to send the Florida school community.
"We are appreciative of our student leaders who have created these ideas and been integral in the planning and execution. We look forward to facilitating whatever level of participation students wish to exhibit in connection with this. We are also appreciative to our district and school board for encouraging this opportunity for students and schools," school officials said.
West Florence High School (from Hagan Rollins, student at West Florence)
• Students have the option to participate or remain in class. The student council was placed in charge of this activity and have created the following agenda:
• Program Outline - 17 Minutes To Remember
- 10:00 a.m. - Students will be in place at the designated area
- Speakers - Hagan Rollins, Anne Walker Payne, Destin Frontis
- Moment of Silence
- Return to Class
• All students are being asked to wear white to symbolize peace and unity. They have also made posters with pictures of the victims to remember them. Contact Stacy Gore at West Florence with questions.
Wilson High School
• Due to the current weather forecast of extremely cold overnight temperatures, our anticipated program start time may be delayed to allow for the temperature to increase. The school will provide updates as administrators continue to monitor the conditions and make preparations and decisions that will be in the best interest of our students.
- 10 a.m. - Principal Dr. Eric Robinson will address the students, faculty and staff via the intercom system with words of comfort and encouragement as well as provide instruction and directions for the forthcoming planned event
- 10:05 a.m. - SGA President Zya Harrell will address the students, faculty and staff via the intercom system as to the significance and meaning of today's planned event
- 10:15 a.m. - Students, faculty and staff will adjourn to a designated area on the outside campus where administrators and SGA Officers will release 17 environmental safe balloons in celebration and remembrance of the 17 lives lost in Florida.
• We also are encouraging students, faculty, and staff to come dressed in purple as a sign of school unity, commitment and support
Florence Career Center
- There will be an assembly program at the Florence Career Center beginning at 10:00 am (outside)
Marlboro County High School
- The Student Government Association will have an assembly and balloon release to honor the 17 students and staff who were killed in the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida this past month. The 16 SGA students, along with Mr. Farr, will call out the name of the victim to whom we were assigned and will then release a balloon. Today, students signed a banner in reference to help prevent bullying and tomorrow, students will be asked to sign another banner in reference to gun control. These banners will be displayed during the assembly on Wednesday, March 14th.
Scotland High School
- Students will have a moment of silence and gather for a "walk up." That's where they try to talk with students who they don't usually talk with in effort to show love and spread the message of nonviolence.