As nationwide student walkouts are being discussed we’ve received a number of questions regarding how Worthington Schools will handle these events. Here is the guidance that we’ve sent home to families.
We are heartbroken over the senseless loss of life, horrified by the gun violence and general interest in guns in society, and yet as a school district we are still interested in maintaining an environment that is open and welcoming to both our students and the public. These are really hard things to balance. We can’t ignore what happened in Florida. This tragedy has started a dialogue that is broad and sustained. It has caused us to review many of the safety measures we have in place and explore other opportunities for growth and new ways to support our kids physically and emotionally.
Student voice is powerful and should be at the center of our school cultures. We know that our schools work everyday to improve and amplify student voice. Student voice is generally protected by the First amendment. Our schools have a responsibility to help students navigate tough social situations and learn how to use their voice in an appropriate way. Our administrators have already been engaged in dialogue with our student leaders about the importance in maintaining a peaceful environment. If our Worthington students are planning or implementing some sort of walkout, protest, or rally, we will evaluate the situation and respond appropriately.
We are aware of the numerous school walkouts protesting school violence that are happening or are being planned in the upcoming weeks or months. If a student feels compelled to protest about any topic that is important to them, we encourage students to select an event and time that does not interrupt their learning or potentially cause a disruption at school. If a student walkout is being planned during school hours, we encourage students to speak with their principal.
In the event students do protest during school hours, we are having conversations with our staff on how we would handle such a situation. Our top priority–as always–will be to maintain a safe environment for all students. To accomplish this, we will adhere to the following guidelines should a student walkout occur: students choosing not to participate in a protest will remain in class with their teacher; students choosing to walk out of school during school hours will be encouraged to achieve their goals in the safest and least disruptive way, such as by congregating in a safe area, away from traffic; and, when possible, we will coordinate with local law enforcement to assist in the monitoring of any protest in order to ensure student safety.
Finally, while the recent events in Florida may certainly warrant political action and strong student voice, our core mission is student learning. Frequent and regular disruptions to the school day are counter to our mission, even if they are for good reason. We recognize that this type of organizing is a potential leadership experience and provides some real experiential learning. We are supportive of student voice, do not wish to suppress it, but also want to remain focused on student learning.
-Trent Bowers, Superintendent