Bulloch County Schools will hold a moment of silence Wednesday, March 14, one month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The schools are also prepared in some way to work with students who want to express themselves in student-led gatherings. But Bulloch school officials have not endorsed the National School Walkout and did not release details of how they will accommodate students.
A message the school system emailed to parents Sunday noted that the schools were closed Monday and Tuesday for regularly scheduled planning and training days.
"When students return Wednesday March 14, each school will observe a moment of silence in the morning. This time is to provide students and employees a time to remember lives lost due to school violence," stated the notice, provided to the Statesboro Herald by Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County Schools public relations and marketing specialist.
"In regards to student-led assemblies on March 14, each school administrator will work with students or student organizations who wish to express themselves," the statement continued. "Administrators have plans for how their schools will have age-appropriate ways to respect and acknowledge student voices but also ensure the rights and safety of others. School counselors are available to counsel students if needed. Our schools will do everything possible to maintain safety, order, open dialogue and discipline. For this reason, these times of remembrance and reflection are not open for public participation."
The school system also directed a mass phone call, with similar content, to parents.
High schools' response
Phoned Tuesday, Statesboro High School Principal Ken LeCain said he wanted to make clear first that the schools are not endorsing National School Walkout Day.
"We are not endorsing this," he said. "However, if the students choose to do this, we will provide them a safe venue, avenue, to do so, and for safety and security reasons that's about all I want to go into saying. Definitely we're not endorsing it, but if it happens we want to provide them a safe place to do that."
He said he had not heard of any specific organizations trying to orchestrate a local observance.
For any students who do not want to participate, Statesboro High will "go straight on with business," meaning teaching and learning, he said.
Similarly, Southeast Bulloch High School Principal Stephen Hoyle referred to the statement Greene provided and also acknowledged that the school had plans to accommodate students but did not release details.
"We're going to do a moment of silence in the morning, and then we have plans in place in case any of the students want to do a little walkout," Hoyle said. "That's pretty much all we can say at this point."
Portal Middle High School Principal Patrick Hill referred the reporter back to Greene for any questions beyond what was in the school system's message to parents.
Asked if students who walk out of a classroom or school on their own would face disciplinary action, Greene had replied in an email to the newspaper: "As with any school day, all students are expected to adhere to the school system's Code of Conduct agreed and signed by students and parents. As with any school day, disciplinary action is only necessary if a student violates the Code of Conduct."
Student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were among the first organizers to call for a National School Walkout to protest gun violence and attacks on schools. The Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland, Florida, school left 17 people dead and a 19-year-old former student charged with their murders as well as 17 attempted murders.
Women's March Youth Empower, also using the hashtag #ENOUGH: National School Walkout, has called for 17-minute walkouts beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.