School district administrators in the Saucon Valley area are bracing for what could be a tumultuous educational day Wednesday, as high school students plan to participate in a national walk-out in remembrance of the victims of gun violence in schools.
Saucon Valley School District Supt. Dr. Craig Butler sent a voicemail message to parents Sunday afternoon, in which he detailed how the district plans to handle Wednesday’s walkout at all three of the district’s schools and made only an oblique reference to what many also view as a political protest.
“It is not the district’s intent to support one politicial view over another, but simply to allow students to participate in a walkout in a safe manner,” Butler said.
The 10 a.m. March 14 walkout is scheduled to last 17 minutes, in remembrance of the 17 students who were killed in a shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month.
“Students at the high school have three options,” Butler said. “One is to remain inside the classroom for instruction. Two is to be outside the building under the supervision of security and staff, and three is to remain inside the building, also supervised.”
“The walkout is optional, as instruction in the classroom will continue as normal,” Butler stressed.
He urged parents to discuss the walkout and their views on it with their children, and to make help make it a “time of remembrance of the victims of this horrific event.”
Parents may also communicate their views on the walkout and their views on their children’s participation with high school principal Beth Guariello and/or assistant principal Thomas Halcisak via email, Butler said.
In the elementary school, teachers and students in grades K through fourth will have class meetings at which students will be encouraged to share feelings, ask questions, tell someone what they want and listen to each other.
At Saucon Valley Middle School “teachers and students in grades 5 through 8 will be meeting in teams and discussing age-appropriate content relating to kindness, compassion and empathy towards one another,” Butler said.
The following information about the planned walkout is from the current Palisades School District newsletter:
At Palisades Middle School, Student Council members will be organizing a ‘walkout’ event to last approximately 17 minutes for students who wish to participate. The focus of this walkout is remembering the victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and school safety. Students who do not want to choose to participate will remain in class and continue with classroom instruction. Any student who participates is responsible for all missed work during this brief event. The ‘walkout’ will take place within the building ensuring the safety and well-being of our students. The Student Council came up with a plan to have students march collectively taking a loop upstairs and downstairs proceeding into our auditorium, where we will have the PA State Police conduct a 10-minute presentation on the importance of school safety. It is important for all of our students to show respect for one another and the point of view that each holds. Disruptive or disorderly students (physically or verbally) during the student-organized protest will receive disciplinary consequences. This is an opportunity for students who wish to remember the victims and promote school safety. Thank you for your continued support.
On a thread posted on Saucon Source publisher Josh Popichak’s Facebook page parents have expressed a variety of views about the planned walk-out.
“I do not want my children to be apart of this walkout!” wrote Lisa Klotz. “I bet half don’t even know why they are doing this. Is this a choice?”
And Floyd Kramer commented that, “children should not be used as political tools,” referring to the politics of gun violence in the United States.
Deborah Heidecker-Repash shared a more sympathetic view of the walkout.
“Which one of us commenting on this thread has been a victim of a school shooting or lost a child to a school shooting?” she asked. “I think the students expressing themselves in a controlled environment is much safer for everyone. Being outside for 17 minutes may offer them the opportunity to think about what they can do to change the climate of school shootings in this country. If you think it couldn’t possibly happen at Saucon Valley I bet the parents in Parkland, Florida thought the same thing a month ago.”
What do you think about the student walkouts planned at Saucon Valley, Palisades and other schools? Tell us by voting in the poll and posting a comment.