Citing student safety concerns and logistics, SD 308 Superintendent Dr. John Sparlin has announced the district's students should remain in their schools this Wednesday, March 14.
In a letter posted on the district's website, Sparlin noted that a number of nationally recognized movements have called for students across the country to walk out of their schools as a way to call for greater safety in schools and to honor the 17 students and staff members at a Parkland, FL high school who were shot dead at their school Feb. 14.
Sparlin wrote, "While we encourage students to stand up for what they believe in, our primary concern is student safety. When students exit our locked buildings, especially on a widely advertised date and time to gather in large numbers, protecting their safety becomes a very difficult task. Additionally, with several planned events on numerous dates, we are concerned about students repeatedly missing valuable instructional time."
He added, "If students choose to exit the building on this day, as with any other school day, our attendance policies and consequences will be enforced."
Instead of allowing students to walk out of their buildings, Sparlin said the district has set aside a short period of time on Wednesday to participate in optional, age-appropriate activities or gatherings within the district's schools.
"It is our hope that what is offered to students will empower them, and give them the opportunity to have their voices heard, while promoting unity across our school families and keeping our students as safe as possible," Sparlin wrote.
As a result, Sparlin announced that the district's high school and junior high campuses will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to anyone coming or going.
Sparlin detailed the planned activities as follows: "At the high schools, student leaders have been meeting with staff and building administrators to design an assembly time for March 14. The content of these classroom-based assemblies will teach students how to contact legislators when they feel strongly about any cause and will offer the contact information for writing letters of support to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and staff. We are promoting unity and togetherness across our schools.
"Additionally, time has been set aside to honor the lives lost in Parkland, FL. These activities were designed by the students, for the students, and the announcements and presentations will be led by students. High school students will have the option to participate only in what they would like to during this designated time.
"The junior high schools will pause instruction just before 10 a.m. and allow students the opportunity to use roughly 20 minutes in a number of ways. Students will be taught how to contact legislators to offer a voice on issues they deem important. They will be provided the addresses of legislators so they can write letters, if desired. In each classroom students can choose to participate in a discussion with their peers on how they can have a positive influence on others. Notes from each class will be shared with administration who will report out to the student body the most common ideas and themes offered by students to help inspire school unity and positivity. Students may also choose to use the time to sit quietly for personal reflection.
"The elementary schools will conduct a Kindness Challenge throughout the day, encouraging students to come up with ways they can make a positive difference. Simple gestures like offering a smile, or lending a helping hand to someone can collectively make a huge impact on the environment of a school and the community. The schools will take ideas from their classes and at end of the day they will share 17 things they value most about their school. The activity is being presented to students in a very reassuring and positive manner, encouraging unity, inclusion, and kindness towards others."
Sparlin added, "It is important that parents, guardians, and families engage in discussion about safety, current events, personal and cultural traditions and beliefs. In the school environment we encourage students to accept one another, lead with kindness, and share together in a spirit of inclusion. Setting aside the time on March 14 for students to learn how to express themselves, to feel their opinions matter, and know that we are supportive of them is important. We’ve offered a large variety of opportunities for students to engage as much or as little as they’d like during this time on March 14."