April 18, 2018
Dear Parents and Students,
As you know, in response to the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many students and student-groups across the nation have organized demonstrations to protest gun violence and to call upon state and federal lawmakers to take action. As part of these demonstrations, on March 14, 2018, some students chose to “walk out of school” or to participate in student-led events in school. The demonstrations on that day were relatively limited in duration, and students were back in classrooms within 20 minutes. Additional demonstrations may be planned for April 20, 2018 – the anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School – when students may be organizing a walk out where they would leave the building at 10:00 a.m. and be absent from school for the remainder of the day.
Ms. Gleason, the high school principal, engaged representatives of the student body to discuss the safety concerns and alternative activities to participating in the walk out. The safety of our students is always of utmost importance to the District. The student representatives requested that a safety program on responding to high threat incidents in school be presented to students that day, along with a time for interested students to participate in further discussion. Working with local law enforcement, the District is able to meet the students’ request for a safety program. The program will be provided a little after 10:00 a.m. Following the program, students who have signed up ahead of time, will have an opportunity to engage in discussion around school safety or other related topics.
As with the March 14th event, we are not condoning a walk out, allowing students to leave school without permission, for this purpose. Therefore, we will enforce the Code of Conduct for students who choose to leave school on April 20th without a valid excuse, thereby missing almost an entire day of instruction. The District and local law enforcement are working together to ensure students’ safety on April 20th should some students choose to participate in the walk out regardless of the potential consequences.
As the District is not condoning the April 20th walk out, we intend to enforce the District’s Code of Conduct if students choose to leave without legal permission or without following the sign-out procedures. Our standard procedure for students leaving school grounds during the day involves notification in writing or by phone from the parent or an in-person pick up. Signing out without a legal excuse, such as a medical appointment, or failing to sign out at all and failing to return to school will be considered an unexcused absence and will be recorded as such. Due to the major disruption and loss of instruction, the District cannot condone such behavior, regardless of the message being promoted. Therefore, if a student participates in a walk out and leaves school, the student will be subject to detention and/or in-school suspension according to the District’s Code of Conduct.
Students who participate in the walk out will not be allowed to remain on school grounds. If students attempt to congregate on school property, they will be asked to return to the school building. If they refuse to return, they will be directed to leave school property. If a student fails to comply with either of these requests, the District administration will contact the parent to pick up his/her child.
It is our hope that you discuss this matter with your student so that we can avoid issues on that day. While the District supports free expression, it is our primary job to educate your child. We find that students missing the majority of a school day, for whatever purpose, is in direct contradiction to our educational mission and such conduct will be handled according to our policies, rules and regulations. If you and your son or daughter decide that participation in the demonstration is appropriate, please be advised that the Code of Conduct will be enforced.
If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact my office at 518-673-6302. Thank you for your assistance and support.
Deborah P. Grimshaw
Superintendent of Schools