Last week’s edition of School Board Notes included a 30-Second Survey addressing the national student walk-out planned for March 14, asking how school districts in New Jersey will respond to the student demonstration that is intended to bring attention to the need for lawmakers to address school security-related matters.
While the survey response was small – fewer than two dozen readers took part – the comments shed light on the range of school district responses, from those who have scheduled educational events in lieu of the walkout, to those who say they do not recognize it.
Of the respondents, 65 percent said their district had made a decision on how it would handle a potential student walk-out, while 29 percent said their district was still developing a plan or the respondent was uncertain.
Of those respondents whose districts have a plan, 43 percent said that the plan involved an education event as an alternative to the walk-out.
Respondents described varying district plans as follows:
- Students will sign a banner that recognizes all of the victims in the gym.
- There will be a 17-minute student-run safety pledge/forum event for grades 5-8.
- It will be a “Stand Up for School Safety” Day. Students will gather in front of the school for a scheduled event. There will be a buddy activity included.
- There will be a gathering in the gymnasium with a live feed.
- In the high school, for those who want to participate, along with an anti-school violence walk-out, teachers will be leading discussions on how civil protests have changed public policy in the past. There will be a pro-Second Amendment group holding a separate gathering. In middle school, for those who want to participate, students will be writing to middle school students at Parkland to support them in their time of need, and to our legislators to describe what it is like every time there is a drill. (And since we do not use the word “drill,” every drill is real.) In elementary school, students will be reading one book for all K-5 students about a kid who is left out on the playground. There will be common discussion questions.
- We are using it as a teachable moment, but nothing formal is planned. Students want to be outside and we are planning to ensure their safety. We have set specific parameters to the event.
For the districts that indicated there are no plans for an educational event or alternative activity, a few described how the district will address the possible walk-out.
- There will be an excused absence if the student is accompanied by a parent.
- We do not condone, support, embrace or otherwise allow political protests on school grounds. We will formally announce walk-outs will be treated as unexcused absences. If students do walk out, we will direct them not to congregate on school grounds as this may invite counter-protests and/or lead to exposure to untoward elements. On that day, we will have enhanced police visibility.
On March 1, NJSBA posted a document, “Addressing the March 14 Student Walk-Out: Guidance and Information,” on its website to help local school leaders determine an appropriate course of action for their districts.
SBN’s 30-Second Surveys are open to all readers, and may include more than one response from a particular district.