Paso Robles students participate in nationwide school walkout

A number of Paso Robles High School and Liberty High School students participated in the nationwide walkout Wednesday while several PRHS students stayed on campus to participate in an alternative gathering. A small group of PRHS and LHS students joined a number of adults protesting in solidarity on the Niblick sidewalk across from the PRHS campus.

The protesting adults held signs that criticized current gun laws, President Trump, and asked for peace. Students who gathered at the entrance of the PRHS campus were asked to move along by administrators, who stated they could not stand in one spot during the protest.

“Today I think it went really well,” said PRHS Principal Eric Martinez late Wednesday afternoon, after students were given the choice of 17 minutes of an extra “nutritional break” from 10 to 10:17 a.m. or to participate in the nationwide walkout. “We had a lot of things take place and we had a structured assembly that provided some information for kids,” Martinez said. “We had a guest speaker who created a special video for our students.” He said the video focused on inclusion, leadership, and kindness on campus. “That went extremely well and every single kid on our site was sent through one of three different assemblies that communicated the same message. The kids were super attentive. They did a great job as being a captive audience and we got a lot of great feedback from our staff and our students in regards to that.”

“So this will continue to bring up some thoughts on what’s next as we continue to carry the message and really build some safety protocols and a culture of caring here on our campus,” Martinez said.

“During the Nutrition Break it went really well,” he said. He said many students led a demonstration with signs on campus while community members were allowed on campus to register students to vote. “Regardless to what their beliefs on policy, we encourage civic participation.” Those who were not yet 18 were given the opportunity to pre-register to vote as well. “We had personnel out there to supervise the safety of our kids,” he added. “There was a lot of good dialogue. For some of the exchanges that were not appropriate, there were a few that were reported, and we quickly intervened and made sure students were treating each other nicely even though they had opposing political viewpoints.”

PRHS student Emma Carippo participated in the walkout and said she did so because she didn’t want to see teachers armed with guns.

“I have walked off school campus because I do not believe that guns in school is appropriate for the safety of students,” Carippo said. “I believe that teachers are supposed to nurture and support our students and not have to shoot them in protection.”

One LHS student, who only identified himself as Joe, said he was participating in the walkout for alternative reasons, stating that the problem isn’t with guns, but with students who get bullied then act out violently.

“I have an indifferent stance on the walkout,” Joe said. “I’m walking out for bullying, for kids who are motivated to participate in these acts, the violence. I’m not for gun control, I think the problem is the school, not the kids.”

The walkout event and alternative on-campus event took place despite the Paso Robles School District’s suggestion that students not participate in the nationwide event for safety reasons.

PHSD Superintendent Chris Williams issued a statement leading up to the walkout event where he encouraged students and parents to participate alternative gatherings instead of the March 14 event, which he deemed unsafe “for a number of reasons.” He also stated that students do not have a free speech right to leave campus, according to law, and that students who did so would be “identified as unexcused.”

“We must always evaluate the safety of our students to the highest of our priority,” Williams said in the statement. “It is with that regard we would like to share with you that we are not recommending a school walkout as the date, time, and place of a walkout creates opportunity for a potentially unsafe environment.”

On Monday evening parents of PRJUSD high school parents were sent a phone and E-mail notification from Principal Martinez regarding what specifically would be taking place on Wednesday. The communication stated that the high school would continue the morning break from 10:00 to 10:17 a.m. as an “Extended Nutritional Break.”

Martinez said additional information will be sent to parents on Friday “to continue the conversation on safety,” including information on standard emergency safety protocol. “We have trained our staff and students back in November,” he said. “We’re following up on some reiteration just so it’s fresh in everyone’s mind.”

Principal Martinez said, “Overall, I think it was very successful. We had students on both sides of the fence, demonstrating their voice and what they believed in. The kids did a good job on reaching out and letting us know what their plan was and then we followed up and if there were any other reports or things we followed up accordingly with our site discipline and intervention and just coaching up kids.” 

“There was a lot of activity and a lot of flow through our quad,” Martinez said. He did not see an abnormal change or impact in attendance for the day. “There were more than a hundred students who were leading it, but there were a lot of kids coming through, just seeing what was available in the dialogue. At any point in time there was an ebb and flow of kids in our quads.”


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