NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Students across the nation will be walking out of school at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14 for 17 minutes in solidarity and participate in the nationally planned response to the Parkland, Florida shooting.

On Friday, March 9, New Providence High School principal Lauren Zirpoli pdfsent a letter to parents and guardians advising them the school will not permit the students to leave class for 17 minutes to assemble during the operation of their educational program. The letter said, "The timing of this walk-out movement, it presents a negative impact on classroom learning as it will interfere with valuable instructional time." She also addressed safety concerns.

The district understands the importance of the students and their rights to assemble peacefully. The letter said the students who wish to exercise their right to assemble, as per Board of Education Policy 5520 - Disorder and Demonstration, may do so at 2:40 p.m. on March 14 at Leider Field for 17 minutes. The administration will provide supervision and additional security with the assistance of the New Providence Police Department. 

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Zirpoli said the district continues to encourage and support our students to educate and express themselves, and to take action on their beliefs to make a positive change.

After discussing their position with numerous parents, Superintendent David Miceli and Principal Zirpoli have not changed their position.

Some students continue to plan to participate in the nationwide walk-out at 10 a.m., according to parents that have been in touch with TAPinto.

"This decision on the part of the BOE and Mrs. Zirpoli shows a real disconnect between the students and the administration," said Lori Guirard in a statement to TAPinto. 

Guirard statement said, "It’s so unfortunate that the students don’t have the support of the BOE to participate in this important national event. It’s also rather ironic that the reason given for the lack of support is 'safety.' I spoke to Mrs Zirpoli on the phone yesterday. She told me she had met with a group of students and told them that since this event has been so publicized everyone will know they will be outside at 10am so it won’t be safe! How are they less safe than any given day at 8am when everyone knows they are arriving and there are no added security measures? Or any given day at 3 when everyone knows they are leaving and there are no added security measures? This protest is about kids not being safe in schools, so trying to make them feel that it would endanger their safety to participate sends the wrong message. The message could have been to stand up for what you believe in. Make your voices heard. Be the vehicles for change. Honor those who lost their lives and those fighting for change. Instead the message is that they are not safe if they participate. Neither safe from harm nor safe from punitive actions. I would think that school administrators would want critical thinkers and empathy in their student body. Isn’t strength of character what they want to instill in our youth? I fully support the students to decide for themselves whether or not to participate."

Another combined statement from parents said, "New Providence School District policy does not support demonstrations during the school day, but a number of students are planning to walk out in support of the national movement with or without the school’s  permission. We applaud these teenagers for having the courage of their convictions and encourage the district to see their actions as driven from a deep desire to affect change in their world, both locally and nationally. They should be applauded for their actions and as a parent I stand in full support." ~ Revathy Padmanabhan and Christina Kapp

At the time of publishing, it is unknown if there will be disciplinary actions against the students that choose to walk-out.