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OUR VIEW: Students could learn from those 17 minutes

THE ISSUE: Schools not taking any sides on walkout
OUR VIEW: Political participation important; but what's next also is
 
Across the United States, students plan to walk out of their classrooms for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 14. 
They will remember the 17 people killed in the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., school shooting and protest gun violence in the United States.
We commend area educators for giving students the independence to gain a valuable lesson in this exercise.
Almost all the administrators The Times spoke with earlier this week said they will allow some sort of demonstration to occur without punishment, whether it be a walkout or an organized event within the school. 
These same administrators also made another key point: they aren't taking any sides. If students want to remain in class, they will be able to.
Educators' main concerns are giving students their own choices and then assuring they remain under guidance during any demonstration to make sure it stays safe.
Still, educators know this is a golden opportunity to teach lessons that go beyond the classroom. A textbook can only go so far, but participating in social and political conversations will give a real-life experience that sticks past graduation. 
Political discussions are not easy ones to have, but developing students to have meaningful ones will be critical to their future.
“Creating independent thinkers and civic-minded students is a goal of public education in Seneca," Seneca High School Superintendent Jim Carlson told The Times earlier this week.
And we know that goal is shared by other administrators.
Credit should go to educators who are trying to make Wednesday's event as meaningful as possible, encouraging students to take matters a step further.
Ottawa High School administrators spoke with student leaders, and they decided to have a "walk-in" assembly. 
"We have some students working on a video and posters to distribute on social media," said Assistant Principal Jeff DeWalt. "We're really thinking this is going to turn into a really big deal. We've really tried to give students ownership of this."
Some educators suggested students reach out to others.
"As another possibility to show support for safe schools, consider a 'walk up' project for that day," said Streator High School Superintendent Matt Seaton on social media. "Take time to 'walk up' to others who sit alone at lunch or quietly by themselves and say 'hi' and ask how they are doing."
In the month following the Parkland shooting, national discussion picked up on the issue of gun laws and school security. Students in Parkland were among the most vocal, capturing the attention of lawmakers.
The national walkout will grab some attention of its own. The Times intends to cover it and ask students about their thoughts around the issue.
But one question will certainly be asked: what's next?
We've already heard via social media some readers have a healthy, skeptical view of a walkout. What good will it do, they ask?
Gaining attention is imperative to start a movement, but if no action follows, it will be a missed opportunity for the cause. The experience still will help shape students as they grow older, graduate and go into careers.
Educators have done their best to stay hands-off in a way to give students their own choices and let them act on their own beliefs, and they've also left the door open for them to use this as an educational experience.
With as sensitive issue as this is, our students are in good hands.

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