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Area police say they'll take cue from school districts on walkouts
A local attorney has pledged to represent any student cited for participating the National School Walkout on Wednesday, March 14 — but what's the likelihood police would charge a juvenile for rallying to end gun violence?
Southwestern Regional Police Chief Gregory Bean, whose department serves Spring Grove Area School District, said he hopes it won't come to that, but he would “take direction from the school district” on the matter.
“They understand what they need to accomplish (in terms of safety) and know the context of this issue, so I would defer to the school district,” he said.
Students across the country are organizing local walkouts in response to recent school threats and violence.
The walkout is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday and last for 17 minutes — one minute for each of the 17 victims killed last month in the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel, whose department serves Spring Grove Area as well as the Dover Area School District, said talk of potential citations at this point is hypothetical, but “in most cases, violations would be for school policy.”
In a statement, Spring Grove Area School District spokeswoman said "should students decide to participate in honoring the lives lost in Parkland, Florida, the district will provide a safe place for students to gather in a peaceful show of support."
Several school board members at other school districts said police intervention concerning the walkout would be unnecessary.
Upon hearing of York attorney Christopher Ferro's plan to offer free legal counsel to students who might be cited or charged for their participation in the walkout, York Suburban school board member Ellen Freireich said students should not face legal action.
Northern York County school board vice president Michael Barndt said that while he is in favor of discipline if a student walks out of the school building, he was opposed to police involvement in the matter.
But if police do get involved, Ferro has said he's ready to help.
He issued a statement last week saying he stands behind "those students who take action and peacefully protest" in solidarity with those affected by the Florida shooting.
"If any of these students are charged by law enforcement for crimes or summary offenses while exercising their rights peacefully, our law firm will represent each and every one of these students free of charge, if requested," Ferro stated.