February 27, 2018
The Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group is planning a national school walkout on March 14, 2018. Students at JFK Middle School and Northampton High School have approached their administrators to discuss participation in this event, and it is possible that some students at the elementary schools will want to participate as well.
We need to balance our students’ right of expression with our duty to provide students a productive learning environment as free as possible from coercion, peer pressure, or pressure to conform to our own views about the issues related to school violence. Additionally, we have the responsibility to not tolerate behavior that disrupts school operations or threatens the safety and order of our schools.
In order to create an option for student participation in the National School Walkout event that does not create a scenario in which students who disagree with the goals of the walkout or who simply don’t want to participate are required to participate, and that does not make walkout participants liable to school discipline, I have asked our administrative and non-teaching staff to help plan and supervise civic learning activities to occur at a specified location and for a specified duration outside each of our schools. At the elementary schools staff will provide age-appropriate options for student participation or non-participation in the walkout. I have also directed teachers to avoid doing anything that could give the impression of enlisting students in this activity and to continue teaching those students who refrain from participating in the walkout.
Students who participate in a school-authorized walkout activity and return to class at its conclusion will not be subject to discipline. Students who do not report to the designated area or do not return to school will be considered to be skipping class.
These activities are likely to draw media coverage. Given the less-structured nature of such events we cannot guarantee that we will be able to enforce normal protocols concerning non-publication of student photographs and other student protections. We will coordinate with the Northampton Police Department to provide additional appropriate safety measures for this event. This event has been organized as a student initiative. I would ask that parents and guardians not add to the security concerns involved with assembling large numbers of students in an unprotected area by attempting to join in with the student event. Designated demonstration areas will be identified for any adult member of the school community who wishes to express an opinion prior to the start of the school day.
John A. Provost, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Click HERE for a copy of this letter in ENGLISH and SPANISH