Students from Port Townsend and Chimacum schools are talking about participating in national walkouts against gun violence on March 14.
Students at Port Townsend High School and Blue Heron Middle School may be planning to participate in a nationwide peaceful rally to demand an end to violence in schools, according to a letter posted online by school district staff.
The rallies are to be held in response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida and is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14. The rally is also meant to honor those who have lost their lives because of school violence, according to the letter.
Port Townsend High School Principal Carrie Ehrhardt was not available for comment Monday.
“Advocating for an issue can be a powerful learning experience; it is also a good lesson in democracy and the right to have a voice in government,” the letter online states.
The school district aims to ensure that students feel safe and respected regardless of whether or not they participate in the rally, it said.
“We are asking our student groups to work with us out of respect to their fellow classmates, school staff, and the educational process, by notifying us of their intended action. While any walkout or staged demonstration would not be a school or district sponsored activity, we want to be available to provide the guidance needed, to ensure student safety to the best of our ability. We want our students to make good choices, treat others with respect and act in a responsible and safe manner. In the event that a walkout does occur, teaching and learning will continue and classes will operate on our normal schedule,” the letter states.
District staff encourage parents to speak with their children about possible protests and about school guidelines for attendance and absences.
Students who arrive late or miss class are to be marked tardy or absent, and typical school requirements for attendance are to be followed per student handbooks.
The schools will not suspend students who choose to participate in such events, the letter says.
“Although, while we would prefer that any student action would take place outside of the school day, there are moments in time when young people decide that they’ve had enough with what society has to offer, and they want their voices to be heard. We believe this is one of those times. Societal change is often led by the youth in our country, and in a democracy, they too have a right to express their views. While our schools and district remain neutral to any political agendas, we are committed to supporting our students and their first amendment rights,” the letter states.
Chimacum Middle School is joining Chimacum High School in taking part in a nationwide school walkout March 14, in response the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Concurrent with the students of Chimacum High School, the students of Chimacum Middle School also plan to exit their classrooms at 10 a.m., rally for 17 minutes and then deliver speeches until 10:30 a.m.
Ava Vaughan, a student at Chimacum Middle School, is one of the organizers of the event, and like her high school counterparts, she deemed the Feb. 14 school shooting to be a turning point.
“My friends and I brought the idea to our teachers and principal,” Vaughan said. “After the shooting, we were all left in shock. Our shock translated into action. We spent multiple hours planning, talking to students, sharing with teachers and trying to morally understand why something like this happened, why we didn’t feel safe going to school that morning, why we even had to worry about it.”
As an eighth-grade student, Vaughan feels especially connected to the number of high school freshmen who lost their lives in the shooting.
Vaughan explained that the Chimacum Middle School students plan to converge on the football field. Although she and her middle school peers had already planned their walkout, she expressed her appreciation for The Leader’s Feb. 28 news story about the Chimacum High School students’ walkout.
“It really made me realize the power we have, as students, and the ways that we can change a community,” Vaughan said. “One aim of this walkout is for students to take action and make a difference. And by ‘we,’ I mean any student or teacher, whether they are a first-grader, a high school junior or an eighth-grader like me. Whether they come from a school as big as Stoneman Douglas or as small as Chimacum, we all have a voice.”
Chimacum Middle School officials confirmed that students had coordinated the walkout with them and would proceed safely and respectfully, and under those conditions, none of the students would be penalized for taking part.