Lebanon County school students plan walkouts to protest gun violence

Written by Daniel Walmer/The Lebanon Daily News | Mar 14, 2018 8:18 AM
students protest.jpg

School students from Montgomery County, Md., in suburban Washington, rally in solidarity with those affected by the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Lebanon) -- In response to a nationwide student walkout on Wednesday to call for an end to gun violence, several Lebanon County school districts have developed planned events designed to allow students to address their concerns.

Women's March Youth EMPOWER is organizing a 10 a.m. student walkout across the country for 17 minutes to symbolize the 17 students who died Feb. 14 during the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. However, not all student-led actions planned for Wednesday are affiliated with the Women's March efforts.

Here's what's happening in Lebanon County and nearby districts:

Annville-Cleona School District

No students are planning to physically walk out of the building, but some students plan to leave their classrooms at 10 a.m., superintendent Cheryl Potteiger said. They met with school administration to develop planned activities, including a memorial, that they will participate in during that time. People from the outside are not permitted to attend.

Cornwall-Lebanon School District

The district will host a forum on school safety Wednesday evening that is open to the public.

The forum will include a memorial tribute to the Parkland victims, followed by a panel discussion based on questions submitted via a survey of students, staff, parents and community members. Panelists will include Senator Mike Folmer, Rep. Russ Diamond, Rep. Frank Ryan, Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold, Cornwall-Lebanon School District Superintendent Philip Domencic and Cornwall-Lebanon School District students.

The forum will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the auditorium of Cedar Crest High School at 115 E. Evergreen Road.

Eastern Lebanon County School District

Elco Superintendent Julia Vicente released the following statement:

"On March 14, 2018, students in both the ELCO Middle and High Schools will have an opportunity to honor those individuals who lost their lives in Parkland, Florida last month.  The Administrators in both buildings have been collaborating with the student organizers to create an event which focuses on school safety as well as strengthening the sense of community in our schools and beyond. Participation in the event is completely an individual and personal choice.  Our priorities in the ELCO School District consistently focus on supporting the academic and social-emotional needs of our students while maintaining a safe and orderly learning environment for all.  We are proactively working with students, staff, counselors and our School Police Officer to ensure all efforts are handled in the most peaceful, respectful way and in the best interest of our students."

Lebanon School District

"We have several activities planned in-house tomorrow for our students to ensure we use this opportunity as a teachable moment, designed to ensure our students' safety, while developing responsible citizens, which is our district's mission," said superintendent Arthur Abrom in an email.

Abrom also referred questions regarding school safety to a March 12 letter he sent to parents. 

Lebanon Catholic School

Catholic schools in the Harrisburg diocese will be holding prayer services on Wednesday as a "positive way to respond to the concerns of students" and an alternative to the walkout, which the diocese considers unsafe, according to a written statement.

"We are encouraging the high schools to consider marking this time with a school wide prayer service to remember the victims of the Florida school shootings, and to voice the concerns of our students to combat violence," said Father Edward Quinlan, secretary of education for the Harrisburg diocese, in the statement. "It should be remembered that school violence takes many forms, from the tragic assaults we saw in Florida to the day to day bullying and harassment of other students."

Bishop Ronald Gainer has devoted two sessions of an online class he offers to seniors to dialoging with them about their safety concerns, the diocese wrote.

Northern Lebanon School District

The district is not aware of any planned student walkouts on Wednesday, Superintendent Eric Bentzel said.

"We are planning to organize a voluntary opportunity that day for an open discussion forum and/or offering condolences to families of the victims in Parkland, FL. We plan to hold these opportunities for assembly in our library during all three student lunch periods," Bentzel said in an email.

Palmyra Area School District

Palmyra Area School District Superintendent Lisa Brown provided the following statement: 

"Students in our MS and HS have organized an event that will allow students to memorialize those that lost their lives in Parkland, as well as express their views regarding needed change.  The district will support these events that will be held within our school facilities.  In an effort to keep our students in a safe environment, we are not condoning a walk-out from our buildings.  Students may choose to participate in these student-organized events or continue with regular class activities."

Derry Township School District

High school and middle school students will be locking arms in unity at 10 a.m., and a brief memorial service will be held, according to PennLive.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Lebanon Daily News.

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