An Open Address to High School Administrations: Do Not Silence Your Students

As March 14th approaches, students are getting ready for the first of a few planned national high school walk-outs. Next Wednesday’s walk-out was organized by the creators of the Women’s March and will last only 17 minutes, one minute to honor every life lost in Parkland, Florida last month. Many school communities have already participated in their own walk-outs, most of them being in Florida.

As high school teachers and administrative leaders, encouraging your students to stand up for what they believe in as long as it doesn’t result in harm to themselves or others should be a no-brainer. While it seems that some schools couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this idea, others, including my own, believe that everything would be safer if all students and staff remained in our classrooms and minded our own business.

Last night, a call was sent out from my school district’s superintendent. He said that he was aware of the upcoming student-planned walk-outs and is concerned about our safety, which is understandable. With the number of school shooting threats continuously increasing, it’s hard to be confident about anyone’s safety, especially our own. So, without going too much into his exact words, he stated that he felt as though the student bodies of all schools could not be protected outside as they would be inside from any type of potential threat.

So, if we can’t be protected by our two resource officers and a police officer who are always on school grounds, how should that make us feel any safer inside of the building?

Other schools in my area have talked it over and even requested heightened security from state troopers to guard entrances and ensure that nobody comes in or walks out of the building in those 17 minutes. They have teachers, who don’t have classes at that time, who will walk out with the students. So why the hesitation? Why do some schools feel the need to take 17 minutes away from us which could be used to honor the fallen teenagers and adults who lost their lives during what was supposed to be an ordinary school day?

Why should the voices of young adults, the ones who show up to school despite feeling unsafe in every classroom, be silenced by an administration that stands not beside them, but against them?

It shouldn’t be this complicated to organize a 17 minute long walk-out. Yes, safety must be factored in, but I thought my school and all schools that employed school resource officers were safe places. I thought those who are always pointed out at assemblies to be the men and women protecting us were always willing to do their job, even for just 17 minutes. I thought that remembering 14 children, one teacher and two coaches would be a good enough reason to have everyone on board.

We are at a point in our society where the first thing on our mind is: but what if there is a shooter? We stand outside for five minutes once a month for planned fire drills. This isn’t any different. Everybody knows about it. There is a set time and place, exactly like there is for a fire drill. Students know when it is a drill and when it is not.

So I propose this: if there is no way to get a walk-out approved, why not do something inside? Instead of walking out, we could walk into the gym and remain quiet and seated or have a remembrance assembly in the auditorium for 17 minutes where the images of those lost would be shown. The administration could stand in front of their own student bodies and address them as if they truly understand what we are feeling in this day and age. We need to do something more than a moment of silence. Sitting in a classroom silent for 17 minutes isn’t doing anything but the bare minimum. We need action and we need movement. We must do more and you must not silence your students because our voices are more important than ever right now.


Featured image from The Daily Beast



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