Students participate in National School Walkout

Across Platte County, hundreds of students walked out of the classrooms to protest gun violence in schools.

Some students were able to walk out of class for 17 minutes — one for each student killed in the Parkland, Fla. shooting — without punishment, while other students were counted truant.

Of the five high schools in the county, four had at least one student walk out of class at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, the lone exception was at West Platte.

In Platte City, 150 Platte County High School students took part in the student-led walkout that took them to the football field at Pirate Stadium. Administrators were there to monitor the students.

 Brooke Tramel/Special to the Citizen Platte County High School students took part in the National School Walkout on March 14, going to Pirate Stadium for a 17-minute span, one minute for each student killed in the Parkland, Fla., shooting last month.  

Brooke Tramel/Special to the Citizen
Platte County High School students took part in the National School Walkout on March 14, going to Pirate Stadium for a 17-minute span, one minute for each student killed in the Parkland, Fla., shooting last month.  

A moment of silence was held and a conversation was held on how to make the schools safer. Students had a chance to sign a banner that said ‘We Stand With Stoneman’ in reference to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the Florida shooting took place on Feb. 14.

Platte County viewed the situation as a learning experience and the administration worked with student leaders to set up a safe location for the protest.

Platte City Middle School had 75 students take part in a protest in the parking lot and in Kansas City at Barry Middle School, 275 students held a protest at the YMCA Challenger Field.

The school district sent an email to parents prior to the event stating there was some interest in students participating but more interest in protesting came forward the day prior to the protest and the day of.

To the west, on Barry Road, students hung 17 balloons on a flag pole at Park Hill High School.

At Park Hill South, about 200 students gathered for the protest. Twitter photos of the event from the school yearbook showed signs that said ‘Sympathy Doesn’t Save Lives’ and ‘Arms Are for Hugging,’ while numerous students signed their name to a sign that said ‘Stand for Change.’

When the students returned, they were counted truant and had to attend an administrative conference after school.

Park Hill Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd explained that decision.

“Part of our decision was to follow our handbook,” she said. “And make sure we were. Let’s take out a single event. How do you handle if a student walks out?

“We handled it the same way we would as a truancy.”

Cowherd noted the district worked with local law enforcement to provide a safe environment for those that protested throughout the district.

Cowherd said Park Hill South had the largest numbers of students protesting. Park Hill had around 120, while Lakeview Middle School had 150 — the most among the three middle schools. Plaza and Congress had around 60 each, Cowherd said.

There were accounts spreading on social media that the district locked the students out and kept them from returning to class. Cowherd said that wasn’t the case.

The end of the protest came near the bell and administrators kept the students in the foyer for a few minutes as not to interrupt classes that were taking mid-term tests.

The veteran educator is in her third year as the district’s superintendent and 13th overall at Park Hill. She has more than 30  years in education and noted this is something that administrators haven’t had to discuss often.

Cowherd stated the administrators went back and forth on whether punishment should be issued but went back to what the handbook said. She noted other protests are possible in the future and having a consistent set of rules was important.

In Dearborn, superintendent Karl Matt noted one student took part in a ‘very, very minor’ walkout that was short  

Matt noted the district administrators talked to the students and if they wanted to participate in the national event they could and there wouldn’t be consequences for those actions for taking a few minutes out of the classroom.