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San Diego Students Likely Won’t Face Suspensions For School Walkout Against Gun Violence

Marylene Dinliana, 18, holds a sign that reads,

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Marylene Dinliana, 18, holds a sign that reads, "Stop Spilling Our Blood" during a protest against guns on the steps of the Broward County Federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.

Unlike in Needville, Texas, San Diego County students who participate in a nationwide demonstration against gun violence in schools will likely not face suspensions for leaving class.

Though it is up to individual school sites to decide whether to discipline students, the San Diego County Office of Education, which advises and trains the region’s 42 districts, is urging schools to instead focus on helping students digest and discuss the news following the deadly school shooting in Florida on Feb. 14.

“Student demonstrations aren’t a new phenomena and, in the past, punitive responses and threats of punitive response really haven’t been very successful,” said Bob Mueller, who heads student support services for the office and is a former school counselor. “I think we stand a much better chance of success if we engage in dialogue. ”

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In San Diego Unified, district officials are still working with principals to plan their responses to the walkout, but Chief Business Officer Gregory Ottinger suggested student discipline would not be a part of them. He said San Diego schools want to create a safe and supportive place for students to express themselves.

To that end, schools are also developing plans to keep students safe should they walk out of classes. They are working with law enforcement agencies or, in the case of San Diego Unified, their own sworn officers to prepare for the walkout.

Campus police officers do carry guns. State law prohibits teachers and administrators from carrying guns on school grounds, and a federal mandate for them to do so would likely face a constitutional challenge.

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On March 14, students are expected to leave their classrooms at 10:00 a.m. for 17 minutes — one for each person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Ottinger said the brief absence should not impact schools' average daily attendance funding.

A separate march is planned for Saturday, March 24.

Students are expected to walk out of school on March 14 for 17 minutes — one for each person killed in a school shooting in Florida this month.

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