Fayette students unite on National Walkout Day

Fayette County High School students participate in a remembrance ceremony for the 17 lives lost in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. (Photos by Dean Breest)

Wednesday brought a somber remembrance of the lives lost in the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL., both around the nation and at Fayette schools. In varying degrees, many local schools hosted their own remembrances of the 17 victims and calls for school safety.

Among other actions, including moments of silence and reflection, at McIntosh, roughly 150 students as estimated by the school system gathered in the courtyard. At Fayette County High, hundreds of students signed a banner to be sent to MSDHS. Many students also stayed after school to write legislators encouraging increased funding for school security. Flat Rock Middle students lined the halls in silence as each victim’s name was read over the intercom, followed by 17 bells. They also hosted a town hall discussion. J.C. Booth Middle students wrote positive notes on lockers, letters in support of victims and their families, and wrote letters to legislators.

Superintendent Dr. Jody Barrow shared a sense of solidarity with those affected.

“In light of the terrible event that occurred at MSDHS in Florida a month ago, our entire nation has been shaken. There is a strong sense that something ‘has to be done’ to insure that nothing like this ever happens again,” he said. “As I have noted multiple times, the safety and security of our young people and staff is of paramount importance to me and the Fayette County Public School System.”

There was an understanding that students are hurting and there was an opportunity to grow and heal together.

“I personally believe it is also important that our young people have ways to deal with this tragedy, and to be able to put this highly emotional issue into proper context in their own lives,” said Barrow. “Each of our middle and high school principals, their leadership teams, and their student leaders developed site-based plans to help come to grips with the tragedy. That support will need to be ongoing.”

He expressed support of the peaceful observances and the love they showed.

“Where others focused on the issue of ‘protesting,’ our educators and students focused on creating teachable moments where they actually honored the fallen and suggested positive solutions to this tragic event,” he said. “I am very proud of our students and staff and how they conducted themselves in an appropriate manner that was both respectful and purposeful.”

As most schools planned observations and teachable moments, there will be no punishment for those who participated. In other unique circumstances, disciplinary issues will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

The day went largely without incident. The Fayetteville Police Department was made aware of a social media post referencing a school shooting threat at Fayette County High directed at a walkout. An investigation was conducted and determined there was no credible threat. As an added precaution, there was a heavy police presence at the school throughout the day.

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Christopher Dunn has been the sports editor for Fayette Newspapers since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Game Day magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.


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