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3 Seneca students leave during walkout

Across the country last week, students walked out of their schools to pay their respects to the 17 people who died in the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

In Seneca, they were told to stay in class, because students and educators had another event planned.

However, seven students tried to leave anyway, school officials said. When they were told to stay, four complied.

Junior Maggie Cade was one of the other three. At 10 a.m., when the national walkout was scheduled, she said she and a friend attempted to leave the building, but were told they could honor the victims inside the school's commons. So that's what they did.

They spent the recommended 17 minutes standing in honor of the victims. But Cade said both later received detention — that was eventually dropped. Cade said she was told to spend a half hour in detention either after school or during lunch.

"I don't really think I deserve a consequence when I was sticking up for my opinion on a national day of importance for everyone," Cade said. "It angered me that we didn't have something specific for that day."

In an interview, Superintendent Jim Carlson said a student came to him the week before the national walkout and asked whether students could organize an event for the week after the walkout. He said yes. That event took place Tuesday, with about half the student body attending.

"I was away from the school. I heard the assembly was outstanding. I give a lot of credit to our students," Carlson said. "We tried to give students the format and avenue to present their program."

During second hour of the day of the national walkout, Carlson said, the school announced it would run on a normal schedule and the student-led event would be the next week. He added that leaving class without permission is a violation of school rules.

"I don't want to bash the school, but it's important to learn from this and use this as an opportunity to change things for future protests," he said.

Carlson didn't speak specifically about Cade's situation, but he said the goal of discipline is to change behavior, not punish students. He said punishments depend on what students do and how they react afterward.

"We don't have zero tolerance policies any longer," he said.

In an interview the week before the national walkout, Carlson stressed the importance of the right to peacefully assemble.

"Should our students wish to peacefully support a cause for ending violence in schools, Seneca High School would do its best to create a peaceful and safe environment, inclusive of all opinions," Carlson told The Times.

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