District’s response to March 14 student walkout

Dear Parents and Members of the Schuylerville Community,

We want to take a few moments to address the national school walkout that took place on March 14. We’re sure many of you saw the news coverage of our district that afternoon and evening and we know many of you found it troubling, as did we. We are concerned by the misrepresentation of the events that unfolded on our campus. We understand that there will continue to be differing opinions, but we want to provide you with the facts.

If you watched the news coverage that evening, you probably saw footage of two trucks blocking the entrance to our campus. These trucks were put in place ‪from 9:45 to 10:30‬ that morning, in an effort to monitor who was entering our campus during the time of the walkout. We did not know how many students would be participating in the ‪10 a.m.‬ walkout and in the interest of student safety, we felt it was best not to allow visitors onto our campus during a time when a mass number of students may be gathering outside. A message was sent out via our notification system ‪at 9:56 a.m.‬ to inform parents. However, we apologize that the message did not go out sooner. Parents picking up or dropping off a student for a medical appointment, or picking up a sick child were allowed on campus after identifying themselves and their purpose. We feel it is important to reiterate that we were monitoring who was entering our campus, not who was exiting.

Overall, we had 38 high school and two middle school students who chose to participate in the walkout by organizing in the high school auditorium and middle school vestibule, as part of a student-district arranged plan. We also had two students walk out of the high school building. Students were not prevented or discouraged from taking part in the walkout and at no point were students blocked from leaving classrooms or the building.

We feel it is important to note that the two interviews you may have seen on the news represented the perspective of just one student and one parent. We respect their opinions, however what was not covered was the group of 38 students who used their demonstration in the auditorium to create a meaningful dialogue and pay tribute to the 17 victims of the Parkland tragedy. The district opened up the auditorium to students after a high school student e-mailed Mr. Ducharme on March 12 requesting a safe space to gather. This was the only correspondence students had with administrators prior to the walkout. We hear our students every day, not just on designated days and we let our students dictate how they want to respond to issues important to them. When administrators had not heard from the student body a week before the national school walkout, they organized several proactive activities to give students an opportunity to meaningfully show their compassion for what happened in Florida and voice their concerns without it becoming a discipline issue. Both schools held a moment of silence on March 14 for the victims. In addition, the middle school held a “Kindness Counts” day, the high school read a positive quote during the morning announcements every day for 17 days and both schools hosted roundtable discussions on school safety.

The students who gathered in the high school auditorium were positive, respectful and understood that by leaving class without an excused note they would face a consequence. These individuals became part of the more than 60 students who attended the roundtable discussion after school to discuss school safety. It was the second roundtable discussion held at both the middle and high school level. Those who participated sparked a great conversation centered around our school and community. Through their discussions, students have shared many positive feelings about our school safety and culture, while also being able to articulate areas of concern. The district plans to continue holding these discussions throughout the remainder of the school year.

We can all agree that the events that unfolded on February 14 in Parkland, Florida were tragic. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the victims, their families and all of those facing unimaginable grief. We certainly understand that our students have strong feelings about school safety and gun control laws and we applaud them for becoming involved in issues that will impact their future. However, as a public school, we cannot take a stance on political issues and therefore in regards to the walkout, the District felt it was best to stand behind our Student Code of Conduct to remain consistent for future events. Students were not “punished” for participating in the walkout. They were being held accountable for their actions, just like any other student would be.

Please know, we would never deny our students their first amendment rights and any student who wanted to take part in the walkout had the right to do so willingly. We are very proud of our students for how they handled themselves on March 14, and despite what many may have seen on the news or social media, we saw a lot of positive on our campus, especially in the form of emerging student leaders. We hope that we have cleared up some of the circulating rumors and were able to give you a better understanding of the district’s stance.

We feel very fortunate to have a wonderful, caring school community and students who are concerned about what is going on in our country. While we want to support our students as they find ways to voice their concerns, we also must do our part to ensure their safety while they are in our care. As always, thank you for your continued support of our students and our schools.

Sincerely,

Schuylerville Central School District Board of Education
Superintendent Dr. Ryan Sherman
Schuylerville Central School District Administrators