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Maryland school district holds firm, banning student walkout protests despite ACLU lawsuit threats

Students leave Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after attending their classes for the first time on Feb. 28 since the shooting that killed 17 people on Feb. 14 at the school in Parkland, Florida. Students across the country will commemorate the one-month anniversary of the shooting with a National School Walkout on Wednesday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Despite threats of legal action from the American Civil Liberties Union, a Maryland school district is holding firm to a policy that no students will be allowed to participate Wednesday in the National School Walkout, The Baltimore Sun reports.

What’s the story?

Harford County Superintendent Barbara Canavan sent a letter to students and parents last week saying that no students would be allowed to participate in the 17-minute walkout Wednesday to protest for gun control and to remember the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida, massacre.

“Students who leave buildings may be subject to disciplinary action for disrupting school operations,” Canavan wrote, citing safety concerns as a reason for banning the protest.

The ACLU of Maryland wrote to the school district, threatening legal action and expressing concern about a potential First Amendment violation.

“We are deeply concerned that the letter’s tone and content have created the impression that Harford County Public Schools is unlawfully forbidding students from participating in the walkouts and suggesting that students who participate may be punished more severely for leaving class than would be the case for any other excused absence,” the ACLU wrote.

What will happen Wednesday?

Canavan said students will participate in a “learning module” during the time allotted for the walkout, which will give them a chance to share their feelings about gun violence and discuss potential solutions.

“Our goal in providing an opportunity for our students to dialogue in the schools, is that it be open, honest and meaningful to the students in a safe environment that protects their privacy," Canavan added.

The National School Walkout is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in every time zone.

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