All 53 of Grand Rapids Public Schools will spend 17 minutes of Wednesday morning in the same way.
A national walkout organized by the Women's March Youth EMPOWER group, is set to take place at 10:00 a.m. on March 14 -- exactly a month after the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Last week, GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal released a statement informing students, staff and parents that she would stand by anyone who chose to participate in the walkout.
In the days since 17 students were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students across the nation have taken a stand for harsher gun laws and better access to mental health care for troubled youth.
GRPS' decision to stand by those students and staff who choose to participate has brought onset of criticism on several fronts.
"There are some, as you can imagine, who have expressed concern about the political message, and some who are concerned we are over structuring and over controlling it," said GRPS Communications Director, John Helmholdt.
Helmholdt said other parents expressed concern that the district was 'over structuring' the event.
"Again, we are working to honor the rights of all individuals -- those who choose to participate and those who do not. We are putting it in the theme of 'See it. Say it. Do something.' because that's the first line of defense," said Helmholdt.
Helmholdt said the district decided to use this as a teaching moment for their students, from the get-go.
"This is our plan for those 17 minutes. Schools will have some of their own individualized plans, but it's really about school safety, this teachable moment and what it means to be a part of this constitutional democracy," he said.
Parents were provided with permission slips regarding their student's participation, which will also help the district gauge the amount of people taking part.
Each school has submitted a lesson plan surrounding school safety and there will be staff to accommodate those students who choose not to participate.
"We received some choice language and a few pointed emails and calls, but nothing overly concerning... right now, our nation is in a hyper tense mode -- as we should be."
Helmholdt said students will be allowed to exercise free speech by creating signs for the event. He said they anticipate there to be students on either side of the matter, and faculty are prepared to moderate discussion that stem from the walkout.
Preschool students are not included in the walkout plans, however, elementary schools will host their walkouts inside, like an assembly. High school students and staff will physically walkout on Wednesday, and those students who choose to continue the protest beyond those 17 minutes will be handled on a case by case basis.
The 37 GRPS Public Safety officers have already been assigned campuses to cover for the event, and local law enforcement is also aware of the district's plans.
The school officers use no weapons, instead, their focus is establishing relationships and providing resources for those struggling. Johnson said their officers receive on average 100 hours of training each year, with one of the most robust safety systems in not only Michigan, but also, the nation.
Larry Johnson, head of public safety for this district, said in his 20 plus years he's never seen a need for weapons in schools (whether concealed or open carry), which mirrors the stance provided by the GRPS Board of Education.
"We just don’t see the necessity, at this point. I want my teachers to focus on educational quality and instruction and not worry about carrying a weapon," Johnson said. "We want our kids to be safe. I think that’s a tough decision to put your kids in an environment where half the staff are carrying weapons."
If further down the line, the superintendent chose to allow guns in schools, Johnson said the public safety staff would be more than capable. Ten of their officers have already been through a police academy.
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