Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Students to stage walkouts in response to school shootings

 

March 8, 2018



The Haines High School student council will lead a walkout next week in support of stricter gun regulations after recent school shootings, said teacher Mark Fontenot.

The National School Walkout is planned for Wednesday, March 14, and is part of a greater movement started by student survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The walkout is a call to Congress to “pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship,” according to the walkout webpage by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER.

The walkout will begin at 10 a.m. nationwide and will last 17 minutes to honor the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.

school board member Sara Chapell said at a board meeting March 1 she hopes school staff will encourage students to express themselves.

“I’d like to express my support for our students expressing themselves peacefully and respectfully and I hope we will support our students if any of them would like to participate in the school walkout,” Chapell said. “Several superintendents have reversed their policies that they had first expressed, for instance in Texas, and are now stating their support for students.”

In Southeast, a small group of students at Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School in Juneau were not allowed to go back to class per school policy after stepping outside for their 17-minute walkout on Feb. 22.

Principal Rene Martin said school staff would support the students’ decision to protest. Attempts to reach high school students were unsuccessful this week due to travel for the regional basketball tournament.

District administration will review school safety policies in the coming months. Administration staff, the Haines Borough Police Department and other stakeholders will present on “large environment safety” later this month.

“Not only is that a concern for us at our level, but it’s a priority,” Martin said.

“It’s unfortunately a much higher priority than maybe it was a couple years ago,” said interim superintendent Rich Carlson. “This is a time we need to rally the troops and come up with a really good plan.”

“This is a process, and we’re in the beginning stages. We’re aligned with every other school district that is probably having the same thoughts,” Martin said. “We are looking at how we do things and our processes, being smart and ensuring our students are safe while they’re here.”

Martin said the staff will work on “how to implement some solid plans to prepare us all if something does happen.”

Administrator Kim Cunningham said the student advisory council, made up of parents and some staff, also discussed school safety at its recent meeting.

school board member Brian Clay said mental health needs to be included in the conversation due to the lack of mental health resources in Haines.

Martin said for the last two months she, Cunningham, counselor Kristen Brumfield and representatives from Lynn Canal Counseling and the police department have had an interagency meeting to “start dialogue because of the lack of resources.”

When asked how the school deals with “red flags” in individual students that could lead to a schoolwide safety threat, Carlson said, “Our school is small enough where there’s a tremendous amount of individual attention. Our goal is to never to get to that point. We attempt to intervene long before we ever get to that.”

Carlson said staff will refer students to the school counselor and work with parents, teachers and the individual if someone observes a social or emotional issue. He said students are occasionally referred to Lynn Canal Counseling.

Carlson also mentioned the elementary school’s “positive behavioral intervention program” called “Counselor’s Corner,” where Brumfield regularly works with young students in the classroom.

“With the smallness of the school, we’re pretty well on top of most issues from the time kids are in kindergarten,” Carlson said.

Clay said at the school board meeting it is important any changes to safety protocol come before the board.

“At some point we need to be advised of what their plan is,” Clay said.

Board president Anne Marie Palmieri said the group may have a workshop to address the topic.

Students have also planned an unsanctioned, full-day walkout in April to commemorate the 1999 Columbine school shooting. Students who participate will be counted as absent, according to Mark Fontenot.

 
 

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