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Walk-in planned at Dare schools

Dare County school officials have scheduled a walk-in for 10 a.m. today, March 14, as an alternative to a nationwide walk-out movement that has students walking out of public schools.

“We wanted to be pro-active in light of this national movement,” said Arty C. Tillett, chief academic officer for Dare County Schools.

Tillett said rather than have students leave a safe environment at a published time and walk outside into the open where there could be danger, a student led program has been planned inside Dare schools.

The idea was still in the planning stages during a recent Community Visioning Forum meeting in which Dare County Superintendent of Schools Dr. John D. Farrelly explained that it’s an effort to balance free speech rights with school safety and education guidelines.

“There are consequences for students that violate rules and walk out of school,” said Tillett.

High school students all across the nation are holding school walkouts at 10 a.m. – in some cases without school officials’ consent – as a show of support for victims of the February 14 Florida shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland where a shooter opened fire on students and faculty, killing 17. Police have charged 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

“We don’t want our kids to walk out of our school from a safe environment into a place that would expose them to someone that could do them harm,” explained Tillett. “Leaving school takes children outside of a safe environment.”

In preparation for today’s event, phone calls and emails went out to parents last night advising that all middle and high schools in Dare County will participate in an organized a national demonstration, but with the opportunity for students to assemble inside the school building, under the supervision of teachers. The event, scheduled to last less than 20 minutes, will provide students with a forum to express their grief and support for the students that have been affected by gun violence.

According to the prepared message, Dare County students have been involved in the planning process and will conduct the assembly themselves and no student will be allowed to walk out of their classroom or leave the school premises without permission from a school official.

The message ends with a note explaining that school officials believe by offering students an opportunity to collectively assemble inside during the school day, they will be able to express their opinions and do so in a safe and orderly manner. 

Tillett explained that although similar, each school’s program would be a little bit different from each other.

Tillett went on to say the events should open the door to address other programs such as one on anti-bullying.

“Manteo High School just happens to also have a blood drive and all three high schools are promoting voter registration,” added Tillett.

Unrelated to the school program is a Dowdy Park event set for Saturday, March 24, at 1 p.m.

Nick Hodsdon will be serving as master of ceremonies and among others also scheduled to speak is The Rev. David Morris from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Outer Banks in Kitty Hawk.

According to Angelina Lowe, one of the event organizers, there will be other public speakers at the Nags Head park followed by a one-mile walk to the Staples parking lot, MP 10, at 2210 South Croatan Highway in Nags Head.

“This is not a political event,” said Lowe. “It is just a citizen’s group to show solidarity with the schools.”

Tillett said while Dare County Schools are not affiliated with the March 24 event, he suspects there will be some school staff and students involved.

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