MSAD 17 Superintendent Responds to Community Over OHCHS Walkout
Many in the Oxford Hills Community are upset over last week's walkout of 150-200 students to observe 17 minutes in memory of the 17 victims of last month’s shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Some are concerned that students are being allowed to leave class to participate while others are upset that students who did not return to classes after the 17 minutes were given in school suspensions.
MSAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpits responded to concerns by posting in the Oxford Hills, Maine, Town Square Facebook group.
I appreciate the feedback concerning the recent walkout at the high school. I read with concern criticism based on innuendo leading to misleading conclusions and accusations. I feel compelled to clarify some information for those who are interested.
The administration had three options when it came to student participation in the Women’s March; embrace it, deny it or limit the forum around it. Embracing it would have created a significant disruption to the educational purpose of the school. Denying it would also have created a disruption to the school and the safety of those choosing to participate. We chose to limit it. This allowed us to contain the event, minimize the disruption to school and refocus student energy around the topic of school safety .
Anticipating that some students would walk out; the district closed the campus, secured the facility, and physically blocked Viking Way and the bus loop This contained participants in an secure area immediately outside of the cafeteria and away from the public and classroom spaces. The area was safe. Law enforcement was present.
There were no official counts taken of the number of students who chose to walk out but administration believes it to have been between 150-200 students - about 18% of the students who were attending school that day. Eighty-two percent of students remained in their classes and school continued without interruption. Those who did participate simply gathered in the bus loop for 17 minutes. They were respectful and returned to class after 17 minutes without prompting from administration.
There were 33 students who did not return to class after the walkout concluded. They were told they should return to class or face discipline. Their names were taken and parents notified of their actions and resulting discipline. These students made an effort to leave school grounds in order to demonstrate off school property on the side of Route 26. Administration respectfully asked them not to leave school grounds for reasons of safety. They remained within the secure area and did chant and hold signs. They returned to school after another 17 minutes. Their activity was not sanctioned by administration. Most returned to class and finished their day. One student who refused to return to class was sent home. All 33 students received the punishment normally assigned to students who skip class; a one day in house suspension.
Law enforcement and administration met with students interested in discussing school safety during each of the scheduled lunches. Participating students shared ways that they believed would help improve school safety. Their ideas, some expressed through a variety of political lenses, included; arming teachers, installing metal detectors, increasing the frequency of lockdown drills and other concrete ways to improve the security of the facility. There were also discussions with students about the “walk-up” movement and how they can positively impact their own school community.
In summary, the procedures outlined in my letter to the community were followed. About 18% of the student body walked out in support of school safety. Thirty-three students were disciplined for infractions violating school regulations. Student safety was ensured. There was no sanctioned second demonstration. Lastly, I would encourage us all to consider the voices of our students. They are asking us to work together to find ways to make schools a safer place for learning.
What do you think of the Superintendent's statement? Should the protest be allowed to have happened at all? Should there have been suspensions for those that did not return to class?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.