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Student walkout for gun control earns ‘respect’ from de Blasio, who orders active shooter drills

The mayor calls for orderly demonstration to be met with only a "modest form of discipline."

Some New York City students will join teens

Some New York City students will join teens nationwide in a walkout March 14 to call for gun control and honor the victims of the Parkland shooting. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Alex Wong

All New York City public schools must hold drills by March 15 on how to lock down buildings in case an “active shooter” is on the loose, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday, also expressing “respect” for a planned student walkout in support of stricter gun laws.

The drill mandate, covering 1.1 million students in the city’s 1,800 schools, was ordered by the mayor in response to the killing of 17 students and faculty Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by a heavily armed gunman.

Nicolas Cruz, 19, a former student at the high school, faces multiple murder charges in connection with the massacre.

New York City school policy already mandated that all schools hold “active shooter” drills about four times per school year.

De Blasio said the Florida shootings underscored the urgency of making sure students and faculty are prepared if something similar were to occur in the city school system.

“This is mandatory. It has to happen everywhere,” de Blasio said Thursday at an unrelated news conference, referring to the March 15 deadline. “Every school has to do it.”

Principals are charged with setting the date and time of their campus drills, said de Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie.

During lockdowns, she said, “students are told, ‘Move out of sight and maintain silence,’ ” teachers check the hallways for students, lock classrooms and turn the lights off until an “all clear” comes over the loudspeaker. Attendance is then taken and the name of any missing student reported to the main office.

Also Thursday, de Blasio said all middle- and high-school students would be subject to random searches by metal detectors at least once before the end of the school year, and at least once per school year.

Metal detectors will be brought in on a rolling basis to schools that do not have the devices permanently in place.

“You can move multiple scanners in very quickly, in a matter of hours,” de Blasio said.

The mayor, a Democrat and proponent of stricter gun control, appeared to sanction a nationwide 17-minute walkout by some students planned for 10 a.m., March 14 to protest America’s gun laws. He asked that parents of students planning to take part in the walkout telephone schools or send a note in their child’s book bag.

“We respect it — I respect it. If I was a high school student today, I’d be walking out. There’s no question about it,” de Blasio said. But he added: “We want to make sure this is done quickly.”

The demand for action by high school students across the country “is too important a moment in history to try to hold back the desire of our young people to see fundamental change and to protect themselves,” de Blasio said. “They just saw their fellow young people massacred.”

He said students who walk out would be subject to only a “modest form of discipline” with no lasting consequences. But a Department of Education spokeswoman, speaking on the condition her name not be published, said no student with parental consent would face discipline. Any resulting absences or latenesses would be recorded but not counted, the spokeswoman said.

Lapeyrolerie said the walkout policy applies only to the March 14 protest.

The city punishment policy stands in contrast to other districts nationwide — school district officials in Needville, Texas, for example have threatened to suspend students who walk out or otherwise protest.

“Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved,” Needville Superintendent Curtis Rhodes said on a district Facebook page. “All will be suspended for 3 days and parent notes will not alleviate the discipline.”

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