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Jackson County students plan more walkouts

Students across Jackson County continue to demonstrate in solidarity with those affected by a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, including echoing the survivors' calls for change.

"Keep us safe," was the chant of a few dozen South Medford High School students who staged a walkout the afternoon of Feb. 21, holding signs with various messages such as "stop school shootings." The demonstration came just a week after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and teachers dead.

Students have announced that more demonstrations are planned for this week, including a walkout March 2 as a joint effort between students at North and South Medford high schools. Organizers are calling themselves "Students for Action."

Meanwhile, Talent Middle School and Phoenix High School joined forces for their own demonstration Friday morning, local media reported. Students, organized by Phoenix High School student Miranda Briscoe Taylor-Cheek, walked out of their school buildings and stood in 17 minutes of silence to honor the victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

Three sophomores identified themselves as the organizers of South Medford's demonstration, saying they had gone to about 15 classrooms inviting students to join in, KDRV reported. The students stayed outside of their school for several hours, with some telling reporters afterward that they would walk out again in the coming days. A snow day canceled classes Thursday, however, and students appeared to remain in class Friday.

This wasn't the case at Hedrick Middle School, however, where teachers reported about 100 students walked out for a demonstration around 10:15 a.m., said Natalie Hurd, spokeswoman for the Medford School District. The message, she said, focused more on school culture and encouraging respect.

Hurd said that students have "every right to peacefully protest," but added that administrators would have to begin weighing potential repercussions if demonstrations were to continue indefinitely during the school day.

Schools are required to mark students absent if they miss the majority or all of a class. Hurd said Thursday the district is "not going to encourage or discourage (the protests) either way."

She said district officials and school administrators discussed ideas at a Wednesday meeting to hold forums or meetings with students to discuss their concerns. No plan had been released Monday night.

— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or ktornay@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.