SD students will join national school walkout

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

Some Rapid City and Box Elder students are getting ready to walk out of class, joining their peers across the nation in a call to end gun violence.

"It’s nothing new," said Rapid City Area Schools Community Relations Manager, Katy Urban, "because it’s been happening frequently and our kids are the ones that are being killed. And they want to have a voice and they should."

Students plan on using their voice on March 14 to demand congressional action on guns. RCAS and Douglas Schools are two of hundreds of districts across the country that plan to take part in the unsanctioned “Enough: National School Walkout.”

The peaceful protest is staged by the Women’s March Youth Empower Movement. The walkout is scheduled for 10 a.m. on March 14 and will last for 17 minutes – one minute for each person killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida. 

But if students skip school on that day, disciplinary action will be taken. It will still count as an unexcused absence. 

"We’re not going to bend the rules for this type of thing," said Urban. "It’s not something we want to promote, but we’re certainly not going to take our students' rights away. And if they want to express themselves, this could be a great learning opportunity."

The school walkouts are not without controversy. A march at Garretson High School in Garretson, S.D. was canceled after hundreds of negative comments on Facebook.

For RCAS administrators, safety is the main priority.

"For us, our biggest concern is student safety," Urban said. "And we want to make sure that if this does happen, that it’s peaceful and we can make sure our kids are safe." 

As school administrators grapple with the boundaries of the right to protest, they are continuing to work with students.

"For us at this point, we don’t have a concrete plan," Urban said. "But whatever we decide to do, it's going to be something that we’re hoping we can engage students on. And we want to have that discussion with them. We already have been, and it's been positive so far."

There are also national marches planned for March 24 and April 20, the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School.

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