Schools set guidelines for guns protest

 

SMYRNA — The aim is to show concern for lost lives, school safety and firearms.

On Wednesday, some Delaware students will participate in a national walkout movement and others won’t.

School administrations across the country have grappled with their policies in the past month, the First State included.

At Smyrna High, students will have a 17-minute opportunity to gather at a spot within the school and express themselves.

District Superintendent Patrik Williams met with SHS student leaders and administrators to organize a plan.

From 10 a.m. to 10:17 a.m., recognition of the 17 shooting deaths suffered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 and associated concerns will be allowed in a controlled environment.

“Currently, we do not have a lot of student interest, but we have arranged a location inside our school for this purpose,” Mr. Williams said. “There will be staff, our school resource (police) officer, and administration, including me, on site to help guide students to and from the location.

“We are supporting our students in their decision, and our focus is strictly their safety. However, no adult staff will be participating, should students wish to convene.”

Following the gathering, SHS staff will supervise student participants return to class.

Dover High students will support the hasthtag #neveragain movement at a Wednesday morning gathering. Specifics of the event were limited, school officials said, in the interest of safety.

In an online story posted by the DHS student publication Senator Weekly, junior Andrew Honeycutt discussed his approach to school administration on taking part in the movement.

“Student participation is the only way we’re heard,” he told reporter Rebecca Jawahar. “We can’t vote, we can’t lobby, so protests like these are crucial.”

Several other students joined the planning process. According to the story, “their goal is to peacefully unite students together for 17 minutes, as other students from around the state and country do the same, to mourn those taken too soon, and to show support for the students of MSDH.

“Within that 17 minutes, the student leaders plan to explain why we have come together, honor the lives lost, and talk about what can be done on the students parts regarding gun regulation.”

Security top priority

Citing safety concerns this week, the Capital School District declined to make students available for further interview to outside media.

“For security reasons, we are trying to keep this event only within the school community prior to March 14th,” Capital spokeswoman Candace McCarthy said.

“It is a student-run event. We can give you access to the event on that day to interview administrators and students. We don’t want the information out to the public beforehand in order to keep the students safe.”

Regarding the public post online, Ms. McCarthy explained, “The information out there is what the school and the district wanted out there. There are no details in order to keep students safe, and we would like to keep it that way.

“However, you are welcome to come on that day.”

At DHS, students were required to fill out a “We Stand with Douglas” form by this Monday. Teachers will pass out orange wristbands to students on Monday that will allow participation. Student leaders encouraged wearing orange and creating signs showing support.

According to senior class president Nadeem Boggerty in Senator Weekly, “I’m all for it, I just want to make sure that the emphasis is on showing respect for the kids and faculty that lost their lives.”

Administration said students will not be penalized for participation and those opting not to take part can remain in their classroom.

While Cape Henlopen officials are not endorsing a student walkout, the district will take steps to assure safety when it does come at the high school.

Student leaders expressed interest with CHS principal Nikki Miller, according to Superintendent Dr. Bob Fulton in a letter to parents on Wednesday.

Students expressed interest due to “the seventeen lives that were lost and deep concern about acts of violence in schools across our country,” Dr. Fulton explained in letter.

The message was received and “After listening to the student leaders, our administrative team made the decision to focus on providing a safe environment for the student led ‘walkout’, minimizing the disruption to the school day and stressing a message of acceptance and respect for all students at Cape Henlopen High School, whether participating in the ‘walkout’ or not,” Dr. Fulton said.

Dr. Fulton encouraged adult family members to have conversations with their children about the issues.

“We also recognize that our families may have various opinions about their child(ren) participating in the ‘walkout’,” he said. “We respect your opinions and encourage you to talk with your child about personal beliefs and expectations as a child.”

Cape staff will only provide safety for the walkout and not participate in expressing views.

“School administration will communicate with students to ensure that they are aware of expectations and options regarding the ‘walkout’ prior to March 14, in order to ensure a safe and secure environment,” Dr. Fulton said.

Student voices matter

Last week, Caesar Rodney School District Supt. Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald acknowledged that some students may choose to join the walkout movement and “our primary concern is for their safety.”

Dr. Fitzgerald said student leaders discussed their concerns with CR High Principal Dr. Sherry Kijowski and “I believe that positive steps have been taken and that the discussions will continue.”

On Wednesday, the school will host a forum to discuss relevant issues and listen to student concerns.

Among the first elected officials to accept invitations were State Reps. Trey Paradee, D-Cheswold, Jeffrey Spiegelman, R-Clayton, Charles Postles, R-Milford, and Lyndon Yearick, R-Dover South.

Earlier, Dr. Fi7zgerald emphasized that “[w]e understand that our students want to have their voices heard and believe that they should.”

Emailed attempts to reach Lake Forest, Milford and Polytech school districts for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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