A school superintendent near Houston said his district plans to suspend any student who takes part in classroom walkouts as a form of protest over gun violence after last week's school massacre in Florida.
"Needville ISD will not allow a student demonstration during school hours for any type of protest or awareness," Superintendent Curtis Rhodes, of Needville, Texas, wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post, threatening a three-day suspension. "Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved."
Rhodes went on to say that students participating in “political protest” would be subject to a three-day suspension and that “parent notes will not alleviate the discipline.”
“A school is a place to learn and grow educationally, emotionally and morally. A disruption of the school will not be tolerated,” he said. “Respect yourself, your fellow students and the Needville Independent School District and please understand that we are here for an education and not a political protest.”
High school students across the country have been walking out of classes in an effort to stand in solidarity with survivors of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a former student allegedly shot and killed 17 students and teachers.
Walkouts have been reported in various states, including Florida, Colorado, Minnesota and Illinois, where some school administrators said they were instructed to allow students to walk out peacefully, while others, like those in the eastern Texas city of Needville, said they had a zero tolerance policy toward such demonstrations.
Needville High School junior Maddy Lambright said she and a few friends had planned to organize a 17-minutes walkout to honor the 17 victims of the mass shooting. But she said she got a harsh warning from her principal when she went seeking his approval: “If you walk out, keep walking.”
"We went to our principals to get permission," Lambright told Houston ABC station KTRK. "He came on the intercom later in the day and he said, ‘If you walked out keep walking.’"
Lambright said she was heartbroken by the Parkland shooting and she thought the walkout would be a peaceful way to protest gun violence.
"These 17 people deserve this, they deserve a big walkout, a moment of silence for them. You know they didn't deserve to die," she said.
Anti-gun violence groups like Student Walkout Against Gun Violence and National School Walkout, have urged students to take place in coordinated walkouts across the nation, including one that's planned for April 20 — the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
Many survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting have vowed to take a stand against guns violence, taking part in major demonstrations in Washington earlier this week and another at the Florida state Capitol building on Tuesday, where the Florida House voted down a measure to hear a bill focused on banning assault rifles like the one used in the deadly shooting. The Republican-dominated body voted against hearing the bill in a 36-71 vote.
"They send out their thoughts and their prayers, and we appreciate that, but that's enough," Daviyana Warren — a 15-year-old sophomore at Dublin Scioto High School near Columbus, Ohio, where about 200 students walked out in silence earlier this week — told the AP. "We need change.
"No child should have to go to school and be scared for their life," Warren added. "It hits close to home because it's happening to us."