Education, Local

Cobb Students Plan Walkout, Despite Potential Consequences

Student organizers Sara Clement (from left), Jena Paramesh and Lauren Bengtson are planning a walkout at Pope High School, despite Cobb County's stance against the protests.
Student organizers Sara Clement (from left), Jena Paramesh and Lauren Bengtson are planning a walkout at Pope High School, despite Cobb County's stance against the protests.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE
Audio version of this story here.

Students across the country will stage walkouts Wednesday in honor of the victims of the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Some local districts have embraced the event as a learning opportunity. Others have said they don’t support the protests.

The Cobb County school district issued a statement saying it, “doesn’t support or endorse” the protests, and students who participate may be “subject to consequences.”

Kara Litwin, a senior at Pope High School, says that’s the opposite of what she learned in Cobb schools.

“They taught us to stand up for ourselves and for our rights, and now they’re saying, ‘Wait. No. We didn’t mean it,’” Litwin said. “And that honestly hurts.”

Litwin is one of a handful of student organizers at Pope who plan to walk out regardless of the consequences. They still don’t know what those will be. Students say administrators have implied they could receive in-school suspensions (ISS) for walking out, but exact punishments are unclear.

“Just the thought of getting a suspension really scares everyone. It scares me,” said junior Lian Kleinman. “But I think it’s something that’s worth it, and it’s sad to see people — very passionate about this cause — being scared out of what they believe in and silenced by authoritative consequences.”

Still, the group says almost 300 students, out of the 2,000 who attend Pope, have signed up for the walkout. The idea is to support school safety and their own right to speak up, they say. The nonpartisan event will include student speakers, moments of silence for the victims and a chance to register to vote.

Litwin said it’s just the beginning.

“This is a movement,” she said. “This is not simply a moment. And this is only the first step in our long process, and we are going to continue to fight.”

Litwin says the group plans to form a club focused on engaging students in politics.