Tallahassee-area schools to excuse absences for students protesting at state Capitol

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Superintendent Rocky Hanna believes, in the wake of a terrible tragedy, we are witnessing something historic in the "grassroots" activism of the Stoneman Douglas students and others joining them in solidarity around the state.
Hanna said he hopes Leon County students will join in "exercising their freedoms."
Leon County Schools will allow excused absences on Wednesday for its students who wish to join their counterparts from Parkland's Stoneman Douglas High School at a rally planned at the Capitol at noon.
The district also will send buses of student government representatives from each Leon high school to the rally.
"What better lesson for them to learn firsthand than for them to exercise their freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech," Hanna said. 
    Local conservative radio station 93.3 FM, "The Voice of Freedom Today," took to social media to question Hanna's decision Monday.
    "What sort of precedent does this set? What's next? Sanctuary cities? Human trafficking? Aren't those issues the students and staff might be interested in?
    "If it's o.k. for this protest, and it IS a protest, where do you draw the line," The Facebook post reads.
    Hanna, though, says political ideologies are not a factor in his decision.
    “I’m not endorsing the rally, I’m endorsing our students' right to participate in a rally if they so choose," Hanna said.
    "It’s a beautiful thing, as someone who’s a former U.S. history and government teacher, to watch this happening," Hanna said. "It’s kind of an organic group of kids who are saying ‘enough is enough’"
      All students hoping to participate in the rally during the school day must have permission from a parent or guardian, Hanna added.
      Kate Kile, the Tallahassee leader of advocacy group Moms Demand Action, was overseeing donations brought to Saint John's Episcopal Church downtown Monday. Kile said she was amazed at the influx of donations — so much that organizers have had to stop taking them.
      "I'm completely blown away and inundated with the outpouring of love and monetary donations and supplies," Kile said.
      Chiles High School ninth grader Hannah Yang said she will attend the rally, hoping to offer "encouragement" to the Parkland students and join them in calling for change.
      "I hope to be able to give them some encouragement and thank them for being there, and for creating what I think is a new movement in gathering, rallying and coming all the way to fight for gun control," Yang said. 
      "I really want to talk to them, because they’ve been there, and they are real people who experienced it."
      The Student Government Association at Florida A&M University is planning a rally beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Lee Hall, before proceeding to the Capitol to support student efforts.
      The Office of Academic Affairs is offering excused absences for students who participate in the rally with verification of participation.
      At Florida State, it will be up to individual professors to approve absences to students planning to attend the rally. The university is not granting absences from classes.
      Parkland students' itinerary, according to organizers:
      The second wave of Parkland students arrive Tuesday night at 8:30 at Leon High School. If you want to greet them with a warm welcome when they arrive, they'd love it.
      On Tuesday, the first wave of Parkland students will be at the Capitol for individual meetings with legislators throughout the day, concluding by 4:30 p.m.
      On Wednesday, the Senate will be in session. Parkland students will be observing Senate action beginning at 10 a.m. The rally begins at noon and ends at 1 p.m. Please be at the Old Capitol by 11 a.m.
      There will be time Tuesday afternoon and evening for students in Leon County to socialize with our visitors. The students will meet at 4 p.m. in the Capitol courtyard.
      Comfort stations will be set up around the Capitol for our visitors.

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