Catholic Diocese of Peoria takes stand against school walkouts

Journal Star |

--PEORIA -- As students across the country prepare for walkouts, demonstrations or commemorations of the victims of the mass shooting at a Florida High School last month, school administrators are still grappling with how to strike a balance between concerns about school safety, students' rights and the politics of gun control.

Now comes the Catholic Diocese of Peoria with a different reason to bar students from joining the National School Walkout on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, some of the sponsors of the National School Walkout advocate for positions that are contrary to the Church's teachings on the sanctity of human life in all of its stages," states a letter from the Office of Catholic Schools to pastors and principals of area Catholic schools.

"Due to this fact, as well as concerns for student safety on this day of national attention, our schools are directed to not permit students to stage a walkout."

EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women's March organizers, first broached the idea for the walkout to commemorate the victims and push for stronger gun control laws. The support of Women's March organizers for abortion rights has alienated some groups, including diocese.



However, the letter indicates support for a ban on assault weapons.

According to the letter, "Our Catholic schools stand in solidarity with those who seek change and conversion in a culture of violence that is destroying innocent life. However, a walkout is not the best course of action for the students entrusted to our care."

Instead, the office suggests students "take a different approach and demonstrate the power of prayer and faith in action."

Suggestions to schools include offering a rosary for non-violence, holding a prayer service for peace, an all-school Mass to remember the victims, writing letters to Congress encouraging a ban on assault weapons and other safety measures, making cards and posters to send to the Parkland School community, and discussing Catholic social teaching in the classroom through age-appropriate activities.

Peoria Notre Dame High School is planning several activities to remember the 17 student and adult victims killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or padams@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @padamspam.

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