Lafayette High students Taleah Gipson and Maliya Homer say they feel fortunate to have the backing of their school administrators as they plan to participate in a nationally organized walkout against school violence.
The girls, after a public meeting on school safety Thursday night, went up to Fayette Superintendent Manny Caulk and told him they were planning to participate in the national student walkout at 10 a.m. Wednesday. It is set to last 17 minutes — one minute for every life lost in Feb. 14’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
“We are trying to create an awareness in Lexington about the walkout,” said Taleah.
Bryne Jacobs, Lafayette’s principal, said: “What they have planned is beautiful.” He said the event was student-led, with the appropriate oversight from administrators.
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Although some school districts across the country have threatened to punish students who participate, no Fayette County student will face disciplinary action for participating in the walkout, Caulk and district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall told the Herald-Leader.
Many students across the district say they are holding activist events that would not be described as a walkout in the truest sense.
Every principal in the Fayette County Public Schools has worked with students to determine how they wanted to approach the 14th, said Deffendall.
Two seventh-grade girls at Edythe J Hayes Middle, Clementine Coomes and her friend Jamison Gordon, have been planning an assembly and have invited local officials, including Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.
They brought the idea to their principal Dave Hoskins and have been planning under the direction of counselor Shawn Reaves.
“We’ve let adults handle this for so long and nothing has changed. We need to step up and let kids handle it more,” said Clementine.
Jamison said they opted for an indoor event so that “teachers could know where every kid is at all times.”
“I was surprised that my 7th grader and her classmate felt so strongly about this and were clearly so affected by years of these happenings,” said Clementine’s mother, Emily Coomes. “I was proud that these girls were taking the reins and empowering themselves to speak out. And I have been so impressed by the support and guidance that they have received from the staff at Hayes.”
“I think it’s remarkable that Jamison and Clementine have taken a walkout that could be construed as negative and adversarial, and turned it into a positive rally for safer schools,” said Reaves. the counselor. “Not only have they gotten support from the mayor, city council representatives, and school board members, they’ve also recruited more than 50 other Hayes students to help plan and carry out the rally.”
Districtwide, officials have been squeamish about publicly releasing specifics about where students will be located on March 14 for their events because of safety concerns. But in general, said Deffendall, some schools are hosting assemblies in the gym with guest speakers and student speakers. Some schools are having the organized walk-out.
Maliya said administration at Lafayette “didn’t want to silence us.”
Some schools have invited families to come and participate to support the students, Deffendall said. Others have developed public service announcement-type videos to share. And some schools are sending students to the state Capitol in Frankfort. Participation in the events is voluntary.
Caulk said recently that such an initiative can take many paths and in previous school districts “my students opted to use their collective voice to conduct voter registration drives for students who were 17, but would turn 18 before the election.”
The Lafayette students said voter registration drives were part of their plans.
At STEAM Academy, student Sam Wallace-Smith sent a recent e-mail to the Herald-Leader that said, “while it is titled a walk-out, several students including myself would prefer a more meaningful demonstration.
“Wednesday, March 14th we would like to simply step outside our classrooms and line the halls in solidarity for the lives lost in hallways throughout our nation due to gun violence. Our goal is to articulate a clear expectation of our leadership to take action toward safer schools. “
WAVE-TV in Louisville reported that Oldham County Schools will discipline students who participate in the nationwide school walkout scheduled for Wednesday.
Superintendent Greg Schultz said allowing students to take part in the walkout puts them in danger, the station reported.