Students across America, including those right here in Ocean and Monmouth County, will be walking out of class this morning on the one month anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that claimed the lives of 17 people. Today’s nationwide action is both a tribute to the lives lost and a call for gun control and has been organized by ENPOWER, which is a youth branch of the Women’s March.

More than 2,500 schools and universities across the country are expected to walk out of their classes at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes to honor the lives lost at Stoneman Douglas. They also want action from lawmakers to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks for those wanting to purchase guns and pass a law that would allow courts to disarm those who display warning signs of violent behavior.

School districts have sent very different messages to those planning to walk out this morning from encouraging a memorial tribute to threatening to suspend those who leave school grounds. As you can imagine one of the concerns is safety as many of the walkouts have been well publicized and concerning for obvious reasons. To that end school districts have worked with student leaders in many cases to create an alternative to having a large number of students leave the building. Some have encouraged in-school tributes involving not only students but teachers. Donovan Catholic High School will hold a “Prayer for Peace and Healing” service in their gym and others will have students gathering in auditoriums and other places on campuses that are off limits to the general public. One out of area high school will allow students to walk around the football field for 17 minutes with a large police presence on hand.

Like many issues in the past involving young people, there are those who are naturally concerned and engaged and others who will just follow to get out of class for 17 minutes. However, this is a big issue and I for one feel that schools should allow these students to engage in a peaceful protest with no threat of discipline. Today’s students are tomorrows elected leaders and here’s hoping they do a better job than those currently holding office in Washington D.C.

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