Hundreds of students walk out at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Students at some schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district walked out of class Friday morning and protested recent immigration policies, according to CMS officials. South Mecklenburg High School's principal even dismissed school early because of the walkout. 

[IMAGES: Hundreds of students walk out, protest at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, officials say]

Nearly 300 Martin Luther King Middle School students walked out of class in protest and filled the streets in Charlotte’s Hidden Valley neighborhood and North Tryon Street, officials said.

The children were moved back to campus and where they protested on an athletic field before going back to class.

There was also a walkout at South Mecklenburg High School. Chopper 9 flew over the walkout, where there were hundreds of students were gathered in the center courtyard. 

Malk Torres, 18, is a senior at South Mecklenburg High School and part Puerto Rican. He said he's been frustrated by recent immigration changes and ICE arrests impacting the Latin community.

"I hope that some word can get out even all the way to DC saying Latinos just want to be heard and live a peaceful life," Torres said.

Because of the walkout, South Meck's principal decided to release students early as a precautionary measure.

The principal sent this message to parents about the early dismissal:

Good afternoon parents, this is Principal Maureen Furr with an important message about an early dismissal today, Friday February 17th. Earlier today, I made you aware of some students who organized a walkout on our campus. While no violence has occurred on our campus as a result, we have decided to release students early today as a precautionary measure. School buses have begun arriving at South Mecklenburg High School and bus riders will be dismissed in an orderly fashion as individual school buses arrive. Student drivers will be released after the buses exit campus. Car riders will be dismissed as parents arrive to pick up students.

We encourage you to talk to your child about the incidents on campus today and the importance of expressing themselves in appropriate ways while on campus. Thank you for your support of South Mecklenburg High School.  As a reminder, students will not have school on Monday, it is a teacher work day.

Olympic High School and Harding University High School students also walked out of class Friday. Chopper 9 flew over Harding and saw students waving the Mexican flag.

During the walkout at South Meck there were some tense moments when a fight broke out in the middle of campus. Torres said the fighting started after students who opposed them shouted insults.

"It was reckless. There was no reason to fight on campus. You could have took it some place else, but not at school," Torres said.

CMS Superintendent Ann Clark released a statement on the walkouts: 

“Today, some of our students chose to organize on-campus walkouts in protest to recent events involving immigrant communities. On some campuses, peaceful protests were organized and students then returned to class. We understand that many of our students are feeling lots of anxiety and fear. We respect the right of our students to assemble peacefully and advocate for causes that are important to them. However, disorderly conduct that disrupts school operations is not acceptable and will be handled compassionately but firmly in accordance with the CMS Code of Student Conduct. We encourage parents to talk to their children about how they may be feeling and the importance of expressing themselves in appropriate and peaceful ways while at school.”

The message below was sent to families at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle, South Mecklenburg High and the Olympic community of schools:

Good morning (insert school name) families. This is (insert school principal) with an important message. As you may have heard, some students have chosen to organize a walk out and leave campus. We respect their right to assemble peacefully and advocate for important causes that impact their community. However, it is not in accordance with the Code of Student Conduct to leave campus or disrupt school operations. Our priority is to keep all of our students safe. Any students who participate in disorderly conduct will be disciplined according to the Code of Student Conduct. Staff is continuing to monitor the situation. Teaching and learning is continuing in our classrooms. I'll keep you updated.

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