In response to the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many students across the nation have been organizing a variety of events to demand action on school safety. You may have been hearing that there are students and student groups who plan to participate in a national walkout as part of this effort on Wednesday, March 14.
Students at Mohonasen middle and high schools have expressed a desire to take this opportunity primarily to honor the Florida high school victims and also to raise awareness of school safety through several student-led activities. The district has an obligation to remain neutral regarding political issues since our mission is to educate students, which translates into us providing opportunities for students to be exposed to as many views as possible. For the past several weeks, administrators have been working with students, staff and local law enforcement representatives to ensure that those activities are respectful, offer students a voice, that the rights of students are protected and that those who wish to participate are safe. We also want to be sure that students, staff and families are aware of the district’s plans for handling any activities related to our students’ intended purpose for the day.
On March 14, Mohonasen High School and Draper Middle School students who wish to participate in activities students have organized with administrators will be able to do so. There will be designated areas for students to assemble that will be staffed by administrators and faculty. Both schools will honor Parkland, Florida, victims with a moment of silence that morning. Students at each school will be provided spaces within the buildings for a “speak-out” format assembly. This facilitated assembly will enable students with a range of opinions on topics to express their thoughts respectfully. Students who wish to write letters or sign cards and/or take part in kindness activities will also have those opportunities.
While we regularly encourage our students to be actively engaged citizens, we also understand that some students may not want to participate in the student-led activities on March 14. Students who choose not to participate will stay in their classroom under the supervision of their teacher.
Please take some time to discuss these plans with your child(ren) so together, you can help them make an informed decision regarding whether they will choose to participate in the student-planned activities set for Wednesday.
Our district theme for the 2017-18 school year is “Modeling a Culture of Thoughtfulness.” We believe it is important to do just that on a daily basis, including during the student planned events and activities on March 14. By providing a safe space for students to voice their opinions, respecting differing opinions and promoting acts of kindness, we model for our children what civil engagement should look like. In keeping with our theme, we will encourage our students and staff to perform 17 random acts of kindness to honor not only the Parkland, Florida, victims, but any victims of school violence. We invite you to join us in this effort.
We ask that the community understand and respect our duty to protect students’ rights to free speech while maintaining a safe environment, which is why we will not have students doing anything outside of the buildings. In addition, to ensure our students’ safety, the events at each school will not be open to outside participation.
We know that school safety is a concern for many parents, which is why we will hold a Community Conversation on School Safety at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, at Mohonasen High School. Administrators and staff will be joined by Director of Security Jim McCrum, School Resource Officer Mike Rumbaugh and members of the Rotterdam Police Department to discuss safety measures at our schools, as well as the most current, best practices in the field of school safety. We also want to hear questions and concerns from members of our school community, and we will have small group discussions as well as a question-and-answer period.
We believe addressing student safety should be a collaborative effort, and we hope you will join us on April 17. If you have questions or concerns regarding the March 14 activities, please feel free to reach out to me or to your building principal.
Dr. Kathleen A. Spring
Superintendent of Schools
Kevin Warren, Principal
Mohonasen High School
Richard Arket, Principal
Draper Middle School