Responding to student walkouts

March 2, 2018
Tags | News | Community

The tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and other shootings on school campuses across the nation have driven increased interest in student-led civic engagement actions, including walkouts, rallies, and marches. San José Unified unequivocally supports our students’ Constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and free expression.

As you may have heard through social media and other sources, the Women’s March’s Youth Empower group is planning a national school walkout on Wednesday, March 14th. At 10:00am in every time zone, organizers are encouraging students and allies to walk out for 17 minutes - one for every person killed at Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th.

We anticipate that our students may want to participate in this walkout and may already be planning their own actions. With that in mind, we wanted to provide you with an update about what we are doing as a district in collaboration with school leaders to ensure that students can express themselves in a safe and inclusive way.

First, we have provided guidelines and resources for school administrators, teachers, and staff to work with students to identify a space on campus to assemble peacefully on March 14th. We are also asking students not to move their walkouts off campus for their own safety and security. If students choose to do so, we will notify local law enforcement in an effort to keep them safe. It is important for you to know that the student code of conduct still applies. Any students leaving campus during the school day will be subject to discipline, but the consequences will be no different from any other unexcused absence.

Please note that our teachers and staff will not participate in nor endorse any student protests or walkouts. District policy prohibits political activity by employees during the school day. In the case of a walkout, staff participation sets a harmful precedent for endorsing a violation of district policy. Moreover, students with differing views might feel alienated or compelled to participate against their will if staff are perceived as supporting the walkout. We are working with teachers to identify teachable moments around this issue that could be relevant to class instruction or lessons for all students.

With that in mind, we encourage you to review these tips for talking to young people about violence from the National Association of School Psychologists. We all play a role in keeping our students, staff, and schools safe, and we appreciate everything you do to support us in this effort.

In the coming weeks, we will be rolling out a test of our emergency notification system. This includes phone and text messaging as well as email and our new district mobile app. In advance of this test, please add or update your mobile number and email through the Parent Portal or by contacting your school office staff. This will ensure you receive urgent messages in the event of an emergency.

Finally, as we learn more from tragic incidents like the one in Florida, we will be working with schools to augment our existing security protocols and trainings. In addition to monthly fire drills and annual run-hide-defend and earthquake drills, we will look to incorporate trainings for what to do in an active shooter situation when students are outside at lunch or recess.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact your school administrator or the San José Unified Public Information Office at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).