Some Bradwell Institute students apparently walked out of classes Friday morning during a student-led protest to raise awareness of gun violence.
And the school’s reaction has maddened at least one student’s guardian.
BI Principal Toriano Gilbert Gilbert said the administration became aware of the possibility of a protest last week. In response, notifications were sent to the students, staff and parents, saying, “The Liberty County School District places a great deal of importance on the safety of its students and staff. There must be an engagement of students, staff, parents and community members in the development of a trusting and supporting relationship when dealing with school safety.”
The notification said the district acknowledges individuals’ rights to demonstrate, but that it cannot allow those demonstrations to disrupt classes.
“Furthermore, protests such as walk outs, have the potential of placing individuals in a less than safe environment and therefore the district will not participate in any type of walk out.”
Maria Riva, who said her granddaughter participated in the protest, said Hinesville Police officers watched the walk-out.
Friday, Gilbert estimated 11 students attempted the walk-out. He would not confirm any punishment, claiming a privacy law applied in this case.
“Administration handled the situation in accordance to the Liberty County School System code of conduct, notified applicable parents and reminded the students of the importance of focusing on academics during the instructional day; as well as the associated safety hazards of leaving campus,” Gilbert said. “Bradwell Institute is a place of learning and BI would like to thank those students who came to school today focused on academics.”
Riva said her granddaughter told her the demonstration was peaceful. She was adamant about getting into the administrator’s office to protect the rights of her grandchild and make sure she and the other students were being treated fairly.
She said the children who protested received five-days suspension.
“They are speaking out to protect the other kids,” Riva said. “I am proud of her. She is doing what she believes in. I don’t believe in the punishment. It is too harsh. They were merely doing a peaceful protest. I don’t think they (administration) let the parents in to sort and talk things out.”
Riva said she worries that the harsh punishment could affect her granddaughter’s ROTC.
She said students should have the right to stand up for what they believe in and plans to fight for her granddaughter’s rights.
“This is not over,” Riva said.
Waves of student protests have been staged since a Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that killed 17 people. National media report that survivors of that shooting are calling for a national 17-minute school walk-out at 10 a.m. March 14.