200 New Providence Students Decide Participating in National Walkout Outweighs Risk of School Discipline

200 students decide to walk out of New Providence High/Middle School in solidarity for the #Enough National School Walkout Movement. Credits: Bobbie Peer
Credits: Bobbie Peer
Approximately 20 parents stood on the outskirts of school property as the students filed out to participate in the National School Walkout on Wednesday. Credits: Bobbie Peer
Credits: Bobbie Peer

Updated, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 7:45 a.m.

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - About 200 students from New Providence High School and Middle School participated in the National School Walkout on Wednesday at 10 a.m. to protest gun violence which was held on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland, FL high school shooting where 17 people were killed. 

Principal Lauren Zirpoli issued a letter on March 9 advising the parents/guardians that the students would not be permitted to leave class because the timing of the movement presents a negative impact on classroom learning as it will interfere with valuable instructional time.  Zirpoli's letter said the students who wish to exercise their right to assemble could participate at 2:40 p.m. at Lieder Field.

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These 200 students chose not to wait until 2:40 p.m. and walked out of their classrooms in solidarity at 10 a.m. with the many other students across the nation. They made the decision that the cause was worth the risk of disciplinary actions they may face by the school. The students stood respectfully in the crisp 32 degree weather [without cell phones] for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, as well as made their impact for the #Enough movement.  

NPHS sophomore Rachael Mishking, said in a letter to TAPinto, "Students of New Providence High School are eager to show their support to the victims of gun violence and join the nationwide walkout." She acknowledged the letter from Zirpoli and said, "I can understand the risks and reasons why the administration would take issue with the walkout at its scheduled time, but these risks are dwarfed by the meaning behind the protest. -- With this walkout, we are demanding action in response to the horrific mass murders that we have come to fear each day as we enter our place of education. -- It shouldn't be surprising when we choose to stand up for what we believe in, it should be expected and encouraged."    

There was a presence of New Providence police officers on school property along with school supervision that included Principal Zirpoli. She takes the protection of the students extremely seriously, and ultimately, the students participating in this walkout remain under her watch and protection.  Zirpoli had no further comment.

According to Mishking, the walkout went "beautifully." She said police officers and administrators were in the halls and outside, "but they weren't trying to stop us from leaving." Students spoke and urged the students to call congress and gave the number of the district congressman. "My call actually went through," she said. "I was able to express my opinions."

A parent, while leaving the rally, said, the students were very respectful, it was very well done, and she was proud of them. 

So far, no punitive action by the school has been announced, but that could change, said Mishking.

The #Enough National School Walkout movement was started by the Women's March Youth EMPOWER group calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a national walkout for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. across every time zone on March 14, 2018 to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods, according to the Action Network website. The website stated, "We need action. Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship."

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