Howland teachers urged not to take sides on National Walkout Day - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Howland teachers urged not to take sides on National Walkout Day

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HOWLAND, Ohio -

Howland Local Schools Superintendent Kevin Spicher is telling staff members that it is important for his staff not to promote or deny political views expressed on Wednesday's National School Walkout.

The advice is included in a letter Superintendent Spicher has posted on the district's website which outlines plans to allow students to express their views without leaving school buildings.

Schools around the Valley have taken various positions on they will respond to a call for students and teachers to leave their classrooms for 17 minutes Wednesday morning in the wake of the shooting deaths of seventeen people at a Florida high school.

“It is important to recognize that there are a variety of political statements being shared for these walk-outs, and none of them should be promoted or denied by staff as long as students are not disruptive and conducting in a manner consistent with the student code of conduct, Board policy, and Ohio Revised Code,” Spicher writes in the letter.

Spicher says that students' views should be respected whether or not they wish to take part in the event.

“Students will not be penalized academically or have attendance impacted for participation as long as conducted in a peaceful and appropriate manner,” writes Spicher. “If a student asks a staff member if she or he should participate, there will be no specificity either way, as it is a student’s choice.”

The superintendent says he is encouraging that lessons may be learned from student-led activities on how to peacefully express themselves.

According to Spicher, in the interest of student safety, the school has planned safe and organized walkouts that include no students leaving the school buildings.

Remaining in the building during the walk-out as prescribed by the administration will not be counted as an absence, says Spicher.

Students are expected to follow guidelines established by the building principal and listen to staff.

“The schools do not establish any singular political stance to the issue of how to best address school safety, guns, violence, and other related stances students may be taking,” said Spicher.

Below is the text of the superintendent's letter in its entirety.

Student Walk-out Information for Parents and Students


In response to a number of incidents that have occurred across the country, there are school walk-out dates being organized to occur in the coming months by multiple groups and students.  Information is circulating on social media and the Internet with students organizing and registering our schools and sharing their intent to conduct walk-outs on nationally scheduled dates and times.  It is important to recognize that there are a variety of political statements being shared for these walk-outs, and none of them should be promoted or denied by staff as long as students are not disruptive and conducting in a manner consistent with the student code of conduct, Board policy, and Ohio Revised Code.  Many of our children are inspired by this movement and wish to take part in these events, but others may not wish to take part; both will be acknowledged and respected without personal input from staff. Students will not be penalized academically or have attendance impacted for participation as long as conducted in a peaceful and appropriate manner.  If a student asks a staff member if she/he should participate, there will be no specificity either way, as it is a student’s choice. We encourage lessons to be learned from these student-led activities on how to peacefully express themselves.

Administration and teachers have already been approached by students regarding walk-outs with questions about how to conduct appropriately. Plans have evolved during these conversations to conduct walk-outs in safe and organized manners that include NO students leaving the school buildings.  Remaining in the building during the walk-out as prescribed by the administration will not be counted as an absence. When students enter our building for the day, they become our responsibility in the absence of their parents or guardians, and we will have safety protocols in place as we would for any other school day. Permitting students to exit the building during a nationally planned and scheduled event would be irresponsibly remiss, and also contradictory to the safety and accountability for our kids.

As these walk-outs occur, students are expected to adhere to the guidelines established by the building principal and listen to staff in administering compliance.  The schools do not establish any singular political stance to the issue of how to best address school safety, guns, violence, and other related stances students may be taking.  We are aware of the issues we witness every day in our buildings and across the country and know personally that the remedies are convoluted and will continue to require a number of solutions at a number of levels -- in and outside of our schools.

Safety of our students and staff is paramount and we have continued to improve safety and security of our buildings and practices over the past few years that include new security vestibules, electronic entrance and ID cards, BOLO Stick classroom door barricades, greater awareness of practices that keep our schools secured, ALICE training for staff and students.  We have state approved safety plans created in collaboration with local and state authorities and recognize the importance of addressing mental health in all of our practices.

The exercise of freedoms constitutionally afforded to our students will not be interfered with, but the school parameters established in displaying such freedoms must be followed so that ALL students and staff remain safe while conducting, and unimpeded in their own choices and beliefs.  

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Kevin Spicher
Superintendent

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