There are hundreds of responses to plans for Wednesday’s national plan for a 17-minute student walkout as a demonstration against gun violence.
Two different approaches happened to hit my
One is from Hall High School in the Little Rock School District, often derided by Walton forces hoping to take over the entire school district for the low scores of its high-minority, high non-native English-speaking students.
One is from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs, the selective admission school for brainy students. The best and brightest.
Here’s the Hall High plan from principal Mark Roberts:
Colleagues: You may be hearing information on a possible Nationwide Walkout regarding gun violence. Mr. Poore had sent a letter explaining the potential for a walkout and asked us to be proactive instead of reactive and work with our students on this sensitive topic.
In taking a proactive approach tomorrow morning, I will interrupt classes at 9:55am. I will explain the process for an organized whole-school walk out as we do with a fire drill. I will explain the purpose for the walkout, and the surrounding reasons for us doing so in unison. Once my announcement has concluded, the fire drill alarm will sound briefly indicating to exit the building. Please escort your students (walkout) to the parking lot. (Please keep all students and staff in the parking lot near the area congregated for fire drills but away from the street). This is not a fire drill and we want to maintain the utmost safety of all.
After arriving to your safe area, please monitor your students for 17 minutes where each minute constitutes reflection for every student and staff member who lost his/her life in the Parkland, FL school shooting. During this time, there will be staff members around the school holding balloons. Each will release his/her balloon (17 balloons) in unison recognizing the Florida victims. This would be an optimal teaching moment explaining what transpired and the need to continually support all victims and families who have been lost and affected by heinous school shootings. At the conclusion of 17 minutes, everyone will return to the building and we will ring the bells to move to the next period.
Please remember, if there are students who are becoming emotional and are having a difficult time with the reasons for the walkout, please contact a counselor or administrator, so we may assist. In addition, we may have community members joining us, so let’s make this an extremely meaningful, reflective and great day for our students and Hall High School.
Here’s a message Corey Alderdice, director of ASMSA, sent to students there today.
It has come to my attention that some of you have expressed intent to walk out of classes for 17 minutes on Wednesday as part of a larger national movement. Sadly, this information came to me and the Deans not through a proactive dialogue but via a general post in the “Class of” Facebook groups. As administrators and educators, we want to work with you to find ways to achieve your goals and engage as citizens. We are unable to assist you, though, when we are left out of the conversation.
Though protest, assembly, and civil disobedience are important tools in a democracy, they are not solutions unto themselves. A walkout is a peaceful and non-violent means of expressing displeasure but, by itself, is a limited gesture with regard to policy reform. This is a campus community of bright, engaged, and passionate thinkers who are capable not only of identifying problems but also proposing solutions. Register to vote and support candidates who share your values. Write to elected officials at both the state and federal levels to argue your position with both logos and pathos.
University of Arkansas System Board Policy is clear that faculty and staff are not to engage in political activity during usual business hours as public employees. All faculty are expected to proceed with classes, assignments, and any exams as scheduled. As any day, our expectation of students should be consistent.
I must continue to expect that you abide by the regulations set forth in the Student Handbook to which both you and your parents agreed in joining this community of learning. Simply put, walkouts and boycotts are disruptive to the classroom environment. Students who participate in this event will receive the proper sanction for a 1-23 or 2-17 violation depending on previous infractions. As a matter of practice, ASMSA does not report disciplinary actions as part of the college admissions process. You are empowered to make choices that align with your convictions; however, those decisions are not without consequence.
The Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines that students don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” It is neither my intent nor desire to stifle political discourse. My hope is that you will make informed decisions and choose not to withdraw but, instead, to engage.
Which students got a better lesson?
PS: Alderdice naturally defends his school’s approach. He adds:
Since the class period begins at 10 am, we do not consider this a walkout. For the majority of students, the decision to be more than fifteen minutes late to a class amounts to a “Level 1” violation, which our handbook describes as “matters of decorum, courtesy and community living disruptive to academic or residential life.” The consequences for doing so are minimal as outlined on pg. 47 of the handbook, which is linked here.