In a letter to state school leaders, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday said that students should not face disciplinary action for participating in walkouts next week protesting gun violence.
The letter from the front-runner in the governor's race is largely symbolic, as Newsom does not have the power to prevent schools from disciplining students. Newsom's letter, sent to each of California's 58 county school superintendents, comes as school districts consider various ways of handling the 17-minute National School Walkout scheduled for March 14.
Newsom wrote the proposed walkouts, which come after last month's mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., do not create a "a substantial disruption, nor infringe on the rights of other students" if conducted peacefully and lawfully.
"Conversely, the impact of gun violence upon our public institutions of learning has, and continues to, radically disrupt campus life, from lockdowns to the fatal consequences of active shooters, where the longer-term psychological toll on students is beyond quantifiable," Newsom wrote.
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Newsom pushed Proposition 63 on the 2016 ballot in California to further restrict ammunition and and the capacity of ammo magazines.
Most school districts in the Sacramento region are planning alternative events next Wednesday in an attempt to keep students on campus during the March 14 national walkout, but school leaders have offered differing ideas about whether students who walk out of schools in protest will face discipline.
Gov. Jerry Brown's office referred comment to the state Department of Education. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, in a March 2 letter to school leaders in California, encouraged administrators to work with students and teachers to hold discussions and activities on gun violence in school.
"Students must, for their own safety, be urged to stay on campus," Torlakson wrote. "I encourage educators to inform students that if they leave campus or class without permission, they may face school discipline. In addition, students should be reminded that acts such as blocking traffic or harming businesses are wrong, will shed a negative light on their cause, and can lead to legal action."
Newsom wrote in his letter how five schools in the Sacramento region have closed or enforced lockdowns in response to threats of gun violence since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. He also referenced the 1989 shooting at a Stockton elementary school that "ushered in California's era of legislative action to reduce gun violence."
The students from Florida and around the country who have spoken out against gun violence since the Parkland shooting are "incredible young adults" who school officials should support, Newsom wrote.
"I ask you to join these leaders. The adults in charge of Congress have failed our children for long enough," Newsom wrote. "Let's not fail them again by suppressing their voices at this critical juncture in history."