BCS outlines response to potential student demonstrations Wednesday

Published 5:47 pm Monday, March 12, 2018

At schools across the country, thousands of students are preparing to walk out of class on Wednesday morning, an act meant to protest gun violence and memorialize the 17 people killed during the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Among those walking out of class on Wednesday may be students from high schools in Beaufort County. In a statement issued Monday, Beaufort County Schools responded to the possibility of demonstrations at local high schools this week.

“In recent days, we have been made aware of possible student demonstrations in response to acts of school violence,” the statement read. “While Beaufort County Schools respects the rights of students to make their voices heard in a safe manner, we also recognize the importance of providing a safe and structured learning environment.

“For that reason, Beaufort County Schools seeks the opportunity to work with any student or group of students to discuss non-disruptive forms of civil discourse during the instructional day. Students with ideas and concerns should speak with the school principal.”

In addition to pledging to work towards civil discourse, BCS also shared that it will solicit feedback from students on school safety that will be presented to Superintendent Don Phipps and the Beaufort County Board of Education.

“As we work to guide students who seek to share their voices, we will be having age-appropriate classroom discussions with our students about school safety,” the statement continued. “High school students will be participating in classroom discussions where every student will be given an opportunity to express his/her thoughts about school safety on our campuses. The ideas and concerns expressed by students will be shared with the superintendent and Board of Education in an effort to continually improve our safety and security measures.”

While the statement did not explicitly say whether students would face disciplinary action for participating in the walkout, the final paragraph made clear that the expectations for student behavior and school safety would still apply during any demonstration.

“While students may choose to exercise their rights to advocate for causes that are important to them, the rules related to student conduct and school safety shall apply at all times,” the statement concluded. “In the Beaufort County Schools, safety will remain a top priority and we pledge to do our best to keep everyone safe.”

Walkouts are scheduled to take place at schools across the country at 10 a.m., local time, on Wednesday, and will last 17 minutes in honor of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.


In recent months, the issues of school safety and gun violence have become hot topics in the national media. Locally, these topics and recent events have impacted students, teachers and community members.

“There has been an increased interest in conversations and concerns about school safety since the tragic school shooting in Florida last month,” the BCS statement read. “Understandably students, staff members, parents/guardians, and members of our communities have experienced a range of emotions. In Beaufort County, we strive to make all of our schools safe locations, and we acknowledge students’ rights to express themselves about it.”

Following the circulation of a non-local threat on social media last month, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office posted additional deputies at Beaufort County Schools on Feb. 22, a proactive response to reassure the community of the school system’s safety. In a statement issued that week, Phipps told parents that he would seek the most substantial criminal charges possible for anyone who issues a threat of school violence in Beaufort County.


In the wake of the deadly shooting in Florida, student survivors of that event have been thrust into the national spotlight, speaking out and demanding solutions to the problems of gun violence.

Youth EMPOWER, a group that falls under the purview of the Women’s March, is organizing the nationwide walkout. While more than 50 schools across North Carolina are listed as participating in the walkout, no Beaufort County schools are mentioned on the group’s listings. During the past month, the group has adopted the #ENOUGH hashtag as a rallying cry on social media.

According to the Youth EMPOWER website, a list of demands, created by a group of teenagers, a college-age student and an adult sponsor, spells out in detail the policies the group supports and opposes.

The group is urging Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, expand background checks to all gun sales, pass gun violence restraining order laws and take measures to end the militarization of law enforcement. The group also opposes conceal and carry reciprocity laws and “any legislation that would aim to fortify our schools with more guns.”