The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to sponsor on-campus activities March 14 in honor of the 17 people killed in the Florida school shooting, but the district today discouraged students from walking off campus as part of a planned national protest.
A national walkout organized by the Women's March Youth EMPOWER group is encouraging students, teachers and parents to take part in a school walkout at 10 a.m. March 14 for 17 minutes -- one for every person killed in the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
LAUSD Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said she respects that students "have the right to freedom of speech, and they may participate in peaceful dialogue and activities on campus during non-instructional periods."
But she urged parents to "talk to their children and encourage them not to leave campus."
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"Our goal is to provide students with opportunities to express themselves in a safe manner that respects the school environment and all perspectives," she said.
Ekchian said the interest of many students in taking part in a gun-control demonstration can be a "teachable moment."
"To support this effort, the district has prepared a host of age-appropriate resources that empower students to create a dialogue toward action," she said.
"We also encourage our schools to honor the 17 lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland by participating in on-campus activities for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. on March 14."
Ironically, Ekchian's comments came one day before the LAUSD begins a week of activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1968 East Los Angeles student walkouts held in protest of inequality and prejudice against Spanish-speaking students in the district.
One of the leaders of those walkouts, Bobby Verdugo, is scheduled to take part in a Thursday morning assembly at Garfield High School along with LAUSD board president Monica Garcia. According to the district, the assembly will urge students "to graduate from high school, attend college, become future leaders, build a strong sense of identity, self-respect and participate in every aspect of our nation's development."
Commemoration events are also planned over the coming week at El Sereno Middle School, Cal State Los Angeles, Esteban Torres High School, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools and Maya Angelou Community High School.