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West Liberty-Salem Will Discipline Students Who Join Gun Control Walkout

Nick Evans, WOSU News
Hundreds of students at Upper Arlington High School walked out of class on February 21, one week after the South Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead.

Many high school students around Ohio will join their peers around the country in walking out of class on Wednesday to protest gun violence, and the lack of legislation action around the issue.

But at least one Ohio district plans to discipline students who participate.

The superintendent of West Liberty-Salem Local School District, which suffered a school shooting of its own last January, says school is not the correct environment for political demonstrations.

“Students who choose to participate in a school walkout will do so without district permission,” superintendent Kraig Hissong wrote in a letter on the district’s website.

“Students will receive disciplinary action, as stated in our student code of conduct for leaving the classroom without permission and for being out-of-bounds upon exiting the building," the letter continued. "Along with this, the absence will be counted as unexcused, and students will be unable to make-up school work related to the time that they were out of class."

Hissong says the Champaign County district will monitor high school students who participate to ensure their safety. He also says community members and media will be barred from attending any on-campus walkouts that may occur.

Hissong says the district will comply with some students’ wishes to honor the victims of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Hissong says students have organized a period of silent reflection during lunch and homeroom. The school will also let students briefly gather in the high school gym for a ceremony to honor the victims of the South Florida shooting.

Hissong did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

It's been 14 months since prosecutors say West Liberty-Salem student Eli Syrna fired six shots inside the high school. Another student was shot twice in the chest but survived.

Syrna, now 18, awaits trial on several charges, including attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Steve Brown grew up in nearby Richwood, Ohio and now lives there with his wife and sons. He started his journalism career as a weekend board operator at WOSU while majoring in journalism at Ohio State, where he also wrote for the student newspaper The Lantern and co-founded the organization Students for Public Broadcasting.