by Brenda Williams
As a parent of two Seattle Public School kids, I’ve talked with other parents whose kids describe a deep desire to participate in the 17 minutes of action called for by national student leaders on 3/14/2018. The planned national action provides a platform for student/youth voices and is particularly important to many SPS youth.
While some schools will hold assemblies or conduct classroom discussions, how is SPS leadership supporting the students who will walk out? Some kids describe the difficult choice they have to make, that of walking out or being punished (ranging from unexcused absences to being barred from playing in that evenings’ sporting events).
Parents should know that participation in a district or school approved activity is a legal basis for being absent from the classroom. While schools may provide a moment of silence or assembly, Seattle Public Schools should be leading in approving a school activity that includes the option of walking out for 17 minutes. The 17 minutes can be organized, conducted on the playground or sports field, with students returning to the classroom at the conclusion of the time. Parent volunteers could help coordinate and SPS should lead where it is likely many kids feel strongly that their lives are on the line in this important national discussion.
SPS has stated, “we support students’ First Amendment rights, we encourage students to remain on campus: first because of safety; second because state law requires such absences to be unexcused.” If students remain on campus, is the absence then excused? SPS should lead with a plan that clearly supports the 17-minute walkout and communicates to students how they can choose to walk out without facing repercussions for speaking out on the issue of their safety in school. Otherwise, SPS is chilling student participation and silencing their voices.
In solidarity with our youth,
Brenda Williams, concerned Seattle Public Schools parent
Featured image is a cc licensed photo attributed to Elliot Haney