Missoula County Public Schools say they are ready for a student walkout that’s set to take place Wednesday, March 14. In a statement posted online and emailed to students and their families today, the district outlined how it plans to handle the walkout.
"We are not sanctioning any of the events around the walkout. These are all student-led, parent-led or community-led events," says Hatton Littman, the communications director for Missoula County Public Schools.
A nationwide walkout is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, March 14 at 10 a.m. The walkout will last 17 minutes in honor of the victims of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and to demand gun reform legislation.
"I think it’s really important that families and members of the community understand that as a public school district we’re very aware of things that are happening in the public space and certainly the desire for community dialogue and engaged citizenship around this issue," Hatton says.
Just two weeks ago, hundreds of Missoula high school students took part in another national walk-out, leaving their school campuses to demonstrate downtown in a call for gun reform.
Although Littman says Missoula’s public schools don’t plan to interfere with high school students who walk out on their own on Wednesday or elementary and middle school students who walk out with a parent or guardian, regular attendance protocols will be followed. According to the email that went out, unexcused absences could lead to detention.
Littman says she has no idea how many students plan to participate in Wednesday’s event.
"There’s been a lot of social media chatter and there have been families calling our schools indicating their intention to do so, but we don’t really have a good estimate," Littman says. "We recognize though that people in our community have strongly held beliefs about the issue."
Across Montana students have indicated they plan to participate in Wednesday’s walkout. Helena Youth Against Gun Violence, a student-led group formed to promote smarter gun laws in Montana, says they are organizing four school walkouts in Helena for the March 14 event.
Several Helena high school officials sent emails to students earlier this week with a message similar to that of Missoula’s public schools: school will go on as planned and unexcused absences will be noted.