BERNARDS TWP., NJ - In solidarity with a national student movement against recurring gun violence in schools, Ridge High School students are planning to participate in a 17-minute “walkout” from classes on Wednesday, March 14, the one-month anniversary of a mass shooting in a Parkland, Fla., high school. The Ridge campus will be on lockdown during that time, school officials said.
Bernards Township school administrators are uncertain how their students will conduct the walkout, which would likely call for national gun control and school security measures.
The students' planned walkout would be part of a coordinated nationwide school class movement to show solidarity with families, staff and community of the Florida school. The #NeverAgain protest is scheduled to take place for 17 minutes, one for each of the three adults and 14 students gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A 19-year-old former student has been indicted on 17 counts of murder and attempted murder.
School officials and police will block off school during protest
No one will be allowed in or out of the school campus from about 9:45 to 10:30 a.m., when the walkout is expected to take place, Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian said at Monday's Board of Education meeting.
Markarian said that township police will be assigned to access points on the perimeter of the school grounds to ensure the lockdown.
Markarian said he wasn’t sure what the students had planned for the demonstration. Students may choose to go outside the building, he said, but the administration has recommended they stay indoors, in a place like the gym or auditorium, to heighten security.
The superitendent said students were planning the activities, which he said he guessed may include a moment of silence, letter writing and other activities.
In addition to police, available staff will be marshaled to supervise the students, Krause said in an online Friday Folder message to parents on March 9.
The walkout is not a school-sanctioned event, and regular instruction is planned for the day.
No 'negative consequences' for participating students
“However, students who do choose to walkout and behave appropriately, without causing disruption, will not experience any negative consequences as long as they return to class promptly at 10:17 a.m.,” Krause wrote in the email.
However, Krause also cautioned in the email, "The Code of Conduct will also be enforced, and students are expected to behave appropriately and respectfully. Students who do not return to class at 10:17 a.m., or who violate the Code of Conduct, may be subject to disciplinary consequences."
The high school will be on a previously planned abbreviated schedule with school dismissal scheduled for 11:45 a.m. The walkout would come just after students begin Period 6 at 9:57 a.m. Attendance will be taken, Krause wrote.
For any student who needs emotional support, school counselors will be available, Krause wrote.
Parents were notified of two building security changes Monday in an email letter from Principal Krause.
Parents were told about adjustments to building procedures that minimize the frequency and duration of open or unlocked exterior doors.
Beginning today, Tuesday, March 13, any items (lunches, books, equipment, etc.) to be dropped off at the high school during school hours should be labeled and left at designated tables in the main entrance vestibule, where there is video surveillance. Items will be brought into the building at regular intervals.
Krause also said the number of doors that will be unlocked and used for morning arrival will be reduced. Markarian said Monday directing students to three entrances will help ensure better monitoring.
The school was working on more security measures, Krause wrote, but wouldn’t publicize them widely to the outside world. “These will eventually become evident to visitors as they are completed,” he said.