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Pearl River County schools prep for Wednesday's national student walkout

Schools across the country, as well as Pearl River County, are walking a thin line as they prepare to both allow and control student led demonstrations planned for Wednesday, to advocate for safer schools.

The #ENOUGH National Student Walkout is the largest of many that have erupted across the country since a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s day. Since then high school students have rallied together to pressure legislators and administrators for safer schools, lobby for better mental health care for the youth, and remember the 17 lives lost last month.

According to Social Media the #ENOUGH walkout is an open invitation for all students to get up and walk out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, (one minute for every victim) on Wednesday, March 14th, the one month anniversary of the massacre.

Student government leaders and school administrators of Pearl River County school districts have negotiated to plan and prepare a way to not only allow students an opportunity to participate but also respect school guidelines, and ensure student safety as well, during the demonstrations planned for during the school hours Wednesday. Each of the three Pearl River County School Districts have arrived at their own Student/Administrator agreements.

Picayune School District

Students who attend Picayune Memorial High School will be allowed to participate in the walkout as planned nationally, without punishment. Students who choose to, can get up and walk out of their classrooms and into the courtyard at 10 a.m. but are expected to return to class 17 minutes later.

“If our students do walk out to honor those killed in school shootings we certainly will respect their decision,” Picayune Superintendent Dean Shaw said. “This is a concern that everyone throughout our nation has.”

Poplarville School District

Poplarville High School has planned an assembly for Wednesday afternoon which will include a moment of silence but also allow students an opportunity to sign a banner the school district has commissioned to send to Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Superintendent Carl Merritt explained that the students and faculty agreed they wanted Parkland, Fl, to know they were with them through this tragedy. The banner states “We Will Remember,” and the plan is to send to Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school but also to keep one to be hung on the Poplarville campus to serve as a symbol of solidarity and remembrance.

“The main thing is that we want them to know we will remember,” Merritt said. “We talked about giving our students some way of expressing themselves and giving them a voice, well their voices will actually be on that banner we’ll send to Parkland and that’s a pretty powerful way to express their support.”

In addition to Wednesday's assembly and the banner, Merritt said that every Thursday for the remainder of the school year will be a day of remembrance to honor the victims of the Parkland school shooting.

Pearl River Central School District

Pearl River Central High School student representatives will hold a student led assembly on March 14 at 10 a.m. for all those interested in participating in the #ENOUGH demonstration.

Several weeks ago when the first student walkouts began, leaders from the student body met with PRC High School principal Stacey Boudoin to discuss plans for a student led demonstration, Superintendent Alan Lumpkin explained.

“We are very blessed with some great student leaders and they just wanted it to be a positive message and our school administration wanted that same positive message to be displayed,” Lumpkin said.

The students expressed their need to participate in the national demonstrations, to advocate for safer schools and also to remember the victims, but also wanted to respect school rules and guidelines. Lumpkin explained that the students took it upon themselves to handle all the details of the assembly and asked permission from administrators, so the School Board of Trustees approved the event.

Lumpkin went on to say that it was important to the students to not make this event a political statement strictly about gun laws, school safety or even mental health issues, but to most importantly remember and honor the victims in a respectful and positive way.

“It just goes to show the emotional intelligence and the leadership ability our students have,” Lumpkin said. “I’m just extremely proud of our students and how they have conducted themselves during a very stressful time for our nation as well as our schools.”

If you have any questions or concerns about the demonstrations your school will be holding Wednesday, March 14, please contact school administrators.


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