How 23 RI school districts are handling today’s school gun safety walkouts

Students protest outside of Cranston High School West. (Photo by Julianne Lima, WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Students across the country made plans to walk out of school Wednesday as part of an effort to convince state and federal lawmakers to take action on gun safety following a massacre that left 17 people dead in Florida last month.

So how did school districts across Rhode Island handle the walkouts? Eyewitness News asked every superintendent in the state for their plan.

(If you represent a school district not listed, please send an email with your plan to

Bristol-Warren Regional
Our High School students approached the administration as well as the School Committee with their intent to hold a peaceful, civil activity during this time. The students are developing a detailed plan of their activities that will be reviewed by the building administration. Furthermore, the students have outreached to the local police department to advise them of their plans and if there will be any impact to the school surroundings (for example, closing a street or parking lot for 17 minutes). There will not be a consequence if the students participate in the proposed student-led activity.

Central Falls
The Central Falls School District has not heard of any student walkout plans. Should one occur however, we will work with our students to make it a teachable moment. No students will be disciplined for participating in an organized, purposeful activity

We are working with students in a variety of ways to identify a safe, approved activity. These are our guidelines: 1. Safe for students and staff 2. Right of students to not participate 3. Student learning, voice, and empowerment 4. School maintains political neutrality.

School safety is something we are thinking about every day, ever since Colombine. We are encouraging kids to meet with school administrators and want them to options. No plans to discipline students who do walk out.

We have plans at our schools to accommodate the students’ participation with events at each high school. The students will not be penalized for taking part in the school’s event.

We are allowing students to participate on the 14th with certain parameters. Students will not be issued a consequence if they respect and follow the agreed upon plan developed by students and staff.

Exeter-West Greenwich
Our principals are working directly with students to plan appropriate and safe events, which will not be consequences. Details of individual school events are not being shared out of an abundance of caution.

We are supporting our students in allowing them to express their voice, concern and support for safe schools as well as remembering those who lost their lives in the most recent school tragedy. Our students have planned an event with school staff that will be orchestrated in the school building. We will not discipline students if they participate in a walkout as long as they remain on school grounds, are safe and respectful to self and others. I am confident and trust that our students will demonstrate responsible behavior while they participate in any event.

Rather than encouraging a walkout, our high school will be holding a forum on March 14 for students and town officials to meet and discuss safety concerns. Our mayor has agreed to participate as well as our Deputy Police Chief. The idea is to provide a safe and productive conversation that addresses student concerns.

Little Compton
We will do some kind of controlled activity.

We are working with our high school student council on plans.

We have been working closely with our senior class leaders to ensure our students are able to have their voices heard on this day of action while keeping safety and respect in mind. We support our students in their decision to host a close knit gathering for any high school student who wishes to attend inside our school during the time of the walk. Here, they will speak to each other and to school leaders about the event that unfolded and their personal goals for change. While this during-school gathering is not open to the public, we are proud of how quickly our students came together and worked with our administration to plan an impactful remembrance. We have partnered with our students so those who wish to take action do so within this safe space their peers have created and have an opportunity to feel united with their classmates across the country.

North Kingstown
While respecting students’ free speech rights and responsibilities, we must also remind students why school attendance and school safety are so crucial to their education. We encourage teachers, students, principals, superintendents, and all school staff to incorporate these important discussions into your school community rather than lose instructional time and raise additional safety concerns. This is a teachable moment for both students and adults. Harness that. Engage with our students. Engage with their parents and families. Engage with each other. Help our young people act responsibly, balancing two important public goods – the good that comes when we advocate on important issues; and the good that comes when students and teachers teach and learn together in the safety of their school community. Each school district is unique and will work with the members of their school communities to support student voice safely and with an emphasis on this as a teaching and learning opportunity for all.

Our principals have met with concerned students to plan a peaceful acknowledgement of the nationwide planned events for March 14th. We will not condone a student walkout for two reasons. First, It is against our school policy to leave school grounds and we will honor that policy. Secondly, and of the utmost importance to us, we want to ensure our students’ safety by keeping them at school and within our school community. Events are planned at 10 a.m. to ensure students have a voice and can advocate for themselves and remember the 17 Florida victims.

Student Council leaders and our Principal have met to support the ability for students to have a voice, but in a safe environment at school. Student walkouts are not endorsed by the school administration as it may be a threat to student safety. However, students want to share solidarity with their fellow students who were involved in the Florida tragedy. We will find a solution in the next several weeks that supports this goal.

The district is against any walkouts during school hours because it interrupts teaching and learning and poses safety concerns. The consequences will depend on student actions and will be based on the district’s code of conduct and in accordance with state law. If students are acting in a peaceful manner, we would inform parents that they walked out of school and set up conferences where appropriate. We believe in the power of student voice, but believe it can be expressed without interrupting instruction. We will be providing guidance to schools on activities and conversations that can be had within our schools next Wednesday.

We got way ahead of this and talked with students. We think this is a very meaningful thing for kids. If our middle school students want to express themselves, we’ve asked them to go to the auditorium and introduce themselves to someone they don’t know during the 17-minute period recognizing the students who died.

We are working with student leaders to ensure that the “walkout” has a clear focus on showing respect to the students who were lost in the Florida shooting vs. simply an opportunity to leave class. Police presence, adequate supervision, and good communication will show that we value students’ voice and share their concerns for school safety. While I’d rather not share the details about the plan (for safety sake), I hope I have communicated our general sentiment. We are lucky to have a strong relationship with the police and fire departments here in Smithfield and a school culture where the adults and students have strong respect for one another.

South Kingstown
Principals have been meeting with student leaders (HS and MS) and teachers to plan & coordinate a school event on March 14th. Each principal has developed a school based plan. You can read copies of each school’s plan here: South Kingstown High School, Curtis Corner Middle School, Broad Rock Middle School, West Kingston Elementary School, Wakefield Elementary School, Peace Dale Elementary School, Matunuck School, South Kingstown Integrated Preschool.

On March 14th, high school students will be participating in an Assembly of Support for the victims and families who were involved in the Florida shooting. Our high school principal and the Student Council are currently working on the details of the ceremony. If the ceremony is held outside, the Acting Police Chief has assured me that there will be a police presence at the high school. The ceremony will be voluntary.

Principals have been speaking with their student leaders on this subject. Our goal with regard to this potential event is to respect students’ First Amendment rights to express their views on this very important topic, while keeping student safety at the forefront. Plans are in place, should this student demonstration take place.

West Warwick
We plan to support students should they want to participate in the national walkout on the 14th. As I am sure many districts have told you, we will use this as a teachable moment. Students will not be disciplined if they choose to participate in an organized, safe event. However, school rules regarding leaving school grounds, disruptive behavior, etc., will come into play if their actions become unsafe, etc. However, I don’t expect we will experience these types of behaviors should students chose to participate.

Quinn Chappelle, a student at Westerly High School, said students participated in a silent walkout after 17 chimes played over the school’s intercom. She said students then participated in activities that included art therapy, quiet therapy and writing stations that allowed students to write letters to elected officials and victims of school shootings.

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Dan McGowan ( covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan