Parent Letter: March 14, 2018 National Student Walkout

March 9, 2018

Dear Parents,

Educating children to prepare them to be creative, productive citizens is a complex process and one which requires vigilance, compassion, vision, and a deep commitment to the young lives in our charge.  In Robbinsville, one of our core values calls us to lead by demonstrating how an active, learner-centered, academically sound approach to education can promote interaction between students and their communities.

As you are likely aware, a nation-wide seventeen-minute student walkout to honor those killed in the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has been planned for March 14, 2018, the one-month anniversary of the shooting. Students at Robbinsville High School and Pond Road Middle School have expressed interest in participating in this event. Our principals and administrative team have met with local law enforcement to work through some of the logistical challenges that an event of this type could present.  Additionally, in the upcoming week principals from each building will meet with student leaders to plan how best to give our students a voice while providing a safe, secure environment in which to do so. We consider this our duty and responsibility.

Both buildings will design an experience that is meaningful and developmentally appropriate.

At Robbinsville High School, students will be permitted to assemble outside of the building for the planned seventeen-minutes. We are proud to be working in collaboration with our students as they develop plans for peaceable assembly and meaningful service related activities on this day. We are also proud to affirm students who choose not to participate in the walkout or related projects.  During this designated period of time students opting not to participate will be provided with an opportunity to read, reflect or study independently.

Pond Road Middle School has set some clear, age appropriate safety boundaries for their students.  The students will have the option to walk out of their classrooms and join other students in identified spaces within the building.  The walkout will last for 17 minutes after which classes will resume. Pond, too, will plan meaningful service-related projects for students that day. Students opting not to participate will remain in class with staff members during the walkout.

As each school prepares for the student-led walkout, I want to address a few questions that have been raised.

Will students be disciplined for participating in the March 14 walk out?   We will not discipline students who choose to participate in this walk-out on our grounds so long as they return back to class. Again, we are working with our principals and student leaders to coordinate efforts and we support our students in their right to speak up on this critical issue.

Will students in any way be coerced into joining the walkout?  No.  Students will not be pressured or coerced by any district staff member or employee into joining the walkout.  We urge all parents to use this exercise as an opportunity to engage their children in conversations about what they are learning, how they think and what they feel about the recent tragedy and school safety.

What level of supervision will take place during the walkout?  At the high school, members of local law enforcement, administration and staff members will be on hand during the walkout.  At Pond, administrators and staff members not engaged in teaching assignments will be asked to help monitor the event.

Will parents be able to participate?  No. For safety and security reasons, our campuses will be locked down during the walkout. We simply cannot open our schools and grounds to the public during this activity. It’s our responsibility to you and, ultimately, to our students to maintain order and security. If parents want to protest with their children, we suggest they do so during an after-school or weekend event.

In closing, please know that we appreciate our students’ desire to be a part of the larger conversation around school safety.  We remain committed to supporting our students and their families as we learn collectively how to navigate our ever changing world.  Thank you for your ongoing support as we make this day one of reflection and remembrance.  If you have additional questions or if you feel that your child is in need of support with regard to this issue please contact your child’s building administrator or school counselor.

Sincerely,

Kathie Foster

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