Liberty, Glencoe and Hillsboro students plan to participate in a 17-minute walkout Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO - Students at Hillsboro High School walk out of classes in 2016 in protest after a 'Build a wall' banner was hung at Forest Grove High School.If students do march out of Hillsboro schools this week — as three local schools plan to do Wednesday morning — there's something the school district would like them to know.

On Wednesday, March 14, students at Hillsboro, Glencoe and Liberty high schools are planning to participate in a nationwide school walkout in protest against school shootings. Several other Washington County schools are expected to join in as well to remember the 17 students killed at Marjory Stoneman Dougles High School, in Florida.

While district officials say they won't stop students who want to join the national conversation about school safety, they implore students to stay on campus and find other means of expressing themselves.

"There are many ways to have your voice heard, including writing to your legislator or to the local newspapers, having a discussion about your concerns, and participating in activities outside of school hours," the district wrote on its website this week.

In a letter to parents on the district's website, Hillsboro Superintendent Mike Scott wrote that students should make sure they are safe and respectful of others if they plan to participate in this week's walkout, though he would prefer students stay in class, or on campus where they can be supervised.

"Students will not be disciplined for their participation as long as they remain safe, respectful, and responsible, and act in a manner that is not disruptive to the school environment," Scott wrote. "If students do not show up for school or return to class, or if they leave campus, their attendance record will reflect an unexcused absence, which may generate an automated phone call home. Please discuss this matter with your student in advance so there is a mutual understanding about expectations."

The 17-minute walkout is one of several national walkouts and vigils being planned over the next several weeks. Organizers are also planning The March for Our Lives in Portland on March 24, and an April 20 walkout to remember victims of the shooting at Columbine High School.

Scott said school officials said schools must strike a balance between allowing students the freedom of expression and keeping students safely in school.

"As a district, we are neither encouraging nor discouraging students to participate," Scott said. "We do recognize that students retain the right to freedom of speech and expression, within certain boundaries, while at school. We will be talking to students in advance in an age-appropriate manner about school safety, and if there is a desire for a deeper conversation we will approach that from a neutral and educational stance."

The district is limited in how it can work with students, Scott said, because teachers and other district staff members are barred from participating in political activity while at work.

In the wake of the Parkland, Fla. shooting, the district has set up a website devoted to student safety.

By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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