WAVERLY -- When Waverly High School students walk out of class tomorrow morning, they hope the end result will be a conversation about what to do make schools safer.
The Waverly walkout will take place on the same day and at the same time as the national school walkout organized by the youth branch of the Women’s March, but the local students’ goals differ from the national focus.
While the national walkout has the intent of pressuring lawmakers to take a tougher stance on guns, the Waverly event has no political aspirations other than starting a conversation and breaking through the divisiveness that has a hold on national discourse, said Waverly High School Principal Ryan Ricenbaw at last week’s school board meeting.
“I did not want to support something that was only going to support more polarization,” Ricenbaw said.
He made it clear the event was not anti-gun.
“That’s not our role,” Ricenbaw said. “That’s not my role.”
In a media release issued Tuesday, the principal called it an “alternative” to the national walkout.
“The Waverly High School walkout is voluntary, asking for students from all different sides of this deeply polarizing issue of school and gun safety to explore the issues together,” he said in the release. “The event has been organized with an understanding that this conversation is about bringing the different sides together.”
The walkout will begin at 10 a.m. and last for 17 minutes in honor of those who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting.
The walkout is not mandatory, and parents who do not want their children to participate can notify the school, Ricenbaw said.
After the walkout, students will convene in the library to have an open discussion about the issue, the principal said. All viewpoints will be welcome in that conversation.
Ricenbaw told the board the walkout was not a “true protest,” and that he felt there were more appropriate settings for protesting legislation or lawmakers should students wish to do so outside of the classroom.
“That doesn’t need to happen in school,” Ricenbaw said.
The board did not take action on the issue.
Ricenbaw said he hopes all involved can learn from the event.
“As principal, I am supportive of this student request and I believe we will bring students together for a civil, political discussion,” he said in the release. “I believe in our students and also believe that they deserve the opportunity to share their voices. As adults, I think we can be stronger and better when we listen to students share their views on decisions that impact their young lives. We all want what is best for our students in school. It is going to take all voices coming to the table to listen and to learn from one another.”