ST. JOHN — Lake Central schools Superintendent Larry Veracco isn't sure if the district's students will participate in the national protest over gun violence in schools, but if they do, the administration plans to support them.
Veracco told the School Board Monday he has received several calls and emails from parents of high school students asking how the school will react if students join the March 14 walkout and protest over Congress' failure to address the issue of gun deaths in the schools.
Students across the nation have begun planning protests in light of the Feb. 14 killing of 17 people, 14 of them students, in Parkland, Florida.
The parents who contacted Veracco supported the protest, and Veracco said he talked to high school Principal Sean Begley about reaching out to student leaders in drama, the student council, the class cabinet and on LCTV, the student-run television station, to see whether they are planning to join the protest and how they would like to organize it.
The national social media is talking about a 17-minute ceremony, but Veracco said if a large number of students participate and they have speakers, it easily could take longer.
He said there's been more talk of the protest nationally and locally in Porter County than what he's heard at Lake Central. But if students decide to hold a protest and it has some structure, teachers have said they will stand with the students in support.
"We've said, 'Can we work with you to make it structured so we can tell you we're giving you a chance to congregate, and we can do it safely. Our staff would be willing to stand with you.' We've got to start the conversation (on this issue)," he said.
Students and others on social media are talking about students walking out nationally and staying out until Congress acts, but Veracco said that could take a long time, and he's told students not to jeopardize their class standing that way.
"We are not going to quash it, but we want it to be done in a respectful way," he said.
Although Veracco said he had not heard from any middle school parents, Assistant Superintendent Al Gandolfi said he's talked to a couple of parents who were asking the same thing.
"As long as it is student-organized and orderly, we will support it," Gandolfi said.
In other business, Special Education Director Becky Gromala said Lake Central is one of only two schools in Northwest Indiana that will participate in the Special Olympics Unified Game Day in which special education students will compete in events with non-special education students.
A total of 170 students from Protsman and Homan elementary schools and Clark and Kahler middle schools have signed up to participate.
The district got a $1,000 grant from the Indiana Special Olympics for equipment and prizes. The event will be held at the high school from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 10. Gromala said she hopes to expand the program to all the district's schools next year.