Some were told in advance they’d be disciplined, perhaps with detention, perhaps suspension. But in the end, they were allowed to join thousands from across the country to show their solidarity with the survivors and the 17 victims killed in Parkland, Fla. a month earlier.
Pittsburgh Public Schools said it was about students exercising their constitutional rights—including the right to peaceably assemble and express themselves freely.
Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, who previously worked in Florida, took to Twitter to support the district-wide walkout. “Today, students across @PPSnews will stand in solidarity with their fellow students who were tremendously impacted by last month’s tragedy in @browardschools,” he wrote. “Student voice is extremely important, and I stand with them in their quest to make schools safer.”
Despite the frigid weather, at both Pittsburgh CAPA and Sci-Tech, students and staff formed human chains around their schools during “National School Walkout,” observed on March 14 across the country. At Allderdice, students assembled in front of the building and listened as a classmate read the names of all those killed in Florida.
Again, due to the weather, students at Brashear High School held a Walk In, a silent, 17-minute protest in the school gymnasium. One minute for each of the victims.
School Board representative Sala Udin, himself no stranger to protest, said the students should be praised—especially those at CAPA who didn’t wait a month for a national event, but initially walked out on their own, Feb. 21. PPS officials decided not to discipline the CAPA students for their actions.
“The courage and social consciousness of the student movement of Parkland, Fla. have provided an historic lesson for the whole country, in social activism,” he said. “The learning and growth experienced by students all over America is an experience that cannot be duplicated in the classroom, but can only be felt in the street, or in the process of ‘walking out.’ Let’s make it the learning opportunity that it can be. Our first and highest priority is to teach. Let’s keep our priorities straight.”
Tim Stevens, chair of the Black Political Empowerment Project and former NAACP Pittsburgh president, took part in the protest at the Penn Hills High school and afterwards facilitated a discussion on topics surrounding gun violence.
“Everyone benefits when we reduce our concerns to the most basic of levels and recognize we all share a common link as human beings, first and foremost,” he said. “And we all want an end to the violence.”
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