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Arkansas schools prepare for student protests Wednesday

(KATV)

Wednesday marks one month since the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Students across the country are planning to take part in "National School Walkout" to honor the 17 lives lost and also press lawmakers to pass stricter gun control laws.

One of those students, Conway High School Junior Beyoncé Foster, who plans to take part in National School Walkout Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Though Conway Public Schools posted on Facebook warning students of "potential consequences", Beyoncé isn't letting that stop her from practicing her right to protest.

"It's for the #neveragain movement," she explained. The movement, generated by teens protesting for gun control.

But Conway Public Schools--not on board. A Facebook post on their page highlighted safety concerns, the school district must "ensure a safe and secure learning environment for all students at all times."

Beyoncé tells Channel 7 the students plan to march in the school courtyard, which is on campus.

"I'm very proud that people as young as I am are making this big stand against politicians and unfair laws, and I'm honestly a little scared because I've never really been in trouble before," Beyoncé said.

To her, the Parkland tragedy serves as a reminder that not even students are immune to such cruel acts.

"This is a place we go to learn and we trust these people to help us mature and grow as people during these four years where we're becoming ourselves, and to have it not be a place where we can be safe is terrifying," she concluded.

That's why Beyoncé and her contemporaries are taking action and making their voices heard. Though she doesn't consider the walkout an act of rebellion, the school district warned students and parents on Facebook: "If a student chooses to walk out of class during the school day this constitutes the breaking of a school rule."

Channel 7 reached out to Conway Public Schools Tuesday to find out just what rules students would be considered breaking and what disciplinary action would be taken. The school district declined to comment on the matter because they believed it would further promote national school walkout.

Also in Hot Springs, students tell us they're planning to participate in National School Walkout.

An email sent to students by the director of Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts warns that, quote, "walkouts and boycotts are disruptive to the classroom environment."

Here's the letter in its entirety:

Students,

It has come to my attention that some of you have expressed intent to walk out of classes for 17 minutes on Wednesday as part of a larger national movement. Sadly, this information came to me and the Deans not through a proactive dialogue but via a general post in the “Class of” Facebook groups. As administrators and educators, we want to work with you to find ways to achieve your goals and engage as citizens. We are unable to assist you, though, when we are left out of the conversation.

Though protest, assembly, and civil disobedience are important tools in a democracy, they are not solutions unto themselves. A walkout is a peaceful and non-violent means of expressing displeasure but, by itself, is a limited gesture with regard to policy reform. This is a campus community of bright, engaged, and passionate thinkers who are capable not only of identifying problems but also proposing solutions. Register to vote and support candidates who share your values. Write to elected officials at both the state and federal levels to argue your position with both logos and pathos.

University of Arkansas System Board Policy is clear that faculty and staff are not to engage in political activity during usual business hours as public employees. All faculty are expected to proceed with classes, assignments, and any exams as scheduled. As any day, our expectation of students should be consistent.

I must continue to expect that you abide by the regulations set forth in the Student Handbook to which both you and your parents agreed in joining this community of learning. Simply put, walkouts and boycotts are disruptive to the classroom environment. Students who participate in this event will receive the proper sanction for a 1-23 or 2-17 violation depending on previous infractions. As a matter of practice, ASMSA does not report disciplinary actions as part of the college admissions process. You are empowered to make choices that align with your convictions; however, those decisions are not without consequence.

The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines that students don't "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." It is neither my intent nor desire to stifle political discourse. My hope is that you will make informed decisions and choose not to withdraw but, instead, to engage.

Corey Alderdice

ASMSA Director

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