In light of the national debate about gun control after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students at Bexley High School and St. Charles Preparatory School announced intentions to participate in the National School Walkout on March 14.
Officials with the Bexley City School District had established guidelines for students choosing to participate in the walkout, a protest organized by students at hundreds of schools across the country to advocate for stricter gun-control legislation.
Bexley High School students planned to walk out of the school at 10 a.m. and gather on the football field for a 17-minute demonstration, said James Harless, district spokesman. Students did not reveal what they planned to do during the demonstration, but the district worked to ensure the demonstration could be conducted safely, he said.
"Our main concern is always the safety of the students, prioritizing them," he said.
Following the gathering on the field, a high school social studies teacher planned to present a 30-minute lesson on the issue of gun violence and the various solutions groups have proposed to address this problem, Harless said.
At Bexley Middle School, several students also expressed interest in participating in the walkout and actually requested they receive a punishment from the school's administration so that their demonstration would be recognized as civil disobedience, he said.
Middle school students choosing to take part in the walkout were to be given a 45-minute after-school detention, during which they would write legislators to local and state legislators about their concerns about gun violence, he said.
"We're trying to take this opportunity to educate students on the legislative process," Harless said.
Students also were given the option to use lunch and recess to write letters to legislators and sympathy notes to Parkland staff and students, however, Harless said the district did not endorse the walkout or encourage students to participate.
"Teachers are expected to proceed with their normal lessons and can't deviate for political speech," he said.
At St. Charles Preparatory School, Nathaniel Thomas, a senior, and Ray Duffy, a junior, said they organized a student walkout that would take the form of a prayer service beginning at 10 a.m. March 14 at the school's grotto.
"We understand that each student has his own political view on this issue. During this walkout, we will be advocating for the Catholic social justice teaching" that cautions against gun violence and other issues that threaten the community's health and safety, Thomas said.
Students approached St. Charles administrators and faculty about working together to organize the prayer service, Duffy said.
"Students and faculty, both, and members of the prayer club, of which I'm a member, came together. That's the beauty of it," he said. "We really need to be united and we can't allow ourselves to be divided by age differences. We need to be open to unity."
St. Charles Principal James Lower and the rest of the school's leadership support the students' rights to express concerns about gun violence and the need to find solutions, said Michael Warner, director of the school's Campus Ministry.
"I think our administrators feel this strongly in the gut and are also inspired by the students' advocacy in Parkland, Florida," Warner said. "This is not a right-left issue; it's a school issue and a faculty and administration issue."
Columbus School for Girls spokewoman Brittany Westbrook said the school did not plan any activities that were officially recognized by the administration.
"However, I can tell you that no students will be disciplined for walking out if they choose to," she said.
Students in other central Ohio districts, such as the Olentangy Local School District and Westerville City School District, had indicated they would participate.