Fayette school officials prep for student walkout March 14

Fayette school officials prep for student walkout March 14

Unknown number of Fayette high school students expected to join coordinated protests of school shootings, gun violence

Activities to begin nationwide at 10 a.m. in each time zone Wednesday and last 17 minutes, one minute for each death in Parkland, Fla., school shooting Feb. 14

Fayette County School System officials have begun response preparations to deal with an expected student protest next Wednesday that could involve students leaving their 10 a.m. classes to participate in a nationwide School Walkout Day, intended to demonstrate against school violence and for gun control.


Below, at right, Dr. Ted Lombard, Coordinator for Safety, Athletics and Discipline, and (center) Mike Sanders, Assistant Superintendent of Operations answer questions from publisher Cal Beverly about school safety issues during The Citizen Facebook Live telecast March 8.


“We highly discourage any disruption to the regular instructional school day,” School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Barrow said in a letter released to the public Thursday afternoon.

However, school officials have been meeting with student leaders to provide for agreed-upon protest expressions intended to minimize class disruption, according to an interview Thursday on The Citizen Facebook Live telecast with Dr. Ted Lombard, Coordinator for Safety, Athletics and Discipline, and Mike Sanders, Assistant Superintendent of Operations.

Among the superintendent’s directives are the following:

“• Meet with student leaders to assess needs and coordinate before and/or after school plans for that particular school site.

“• With student input, provide space on campus for students to assemble peacefully (before and/or after school), but also ask students not to move off of campus for their own safety and security.

“• Remind students that Fayette County Public Schools supports their rights to peaceful assembly and appropriate free expression, but that the school/system priority is about teaching and learning. Should negative/disruptive behavior occur, such as walk-outs during the school day, the Fayette County Student Code of Conduct remains in place and will be enforced accordingly.

“• Help ensure that any efforts to invite participation are open, and that the events be inclusive of all students.

“• Ask students to be respectful of students on campus who may not wish to participate, and/or students who may hold opposing views to those being shared during a planned event.”

“We don’t want to make this political, but to make it a learning experience,” Lombard said on the telecast. He said officials were encouraging such coordinated events to take place during non-classroom times, such as breaks, lunch, before and after school hours.

“We do anticipate [the walkout] to be more of a middle school, high school, event,” Sanders said on the telecast Thursday night. He emphasized that talks between principals and students leaders were ongoing to develop coordinated “plans” that would be presented to Sup’t. Barrow for final approval.

(L-R) Mike Sanders, assistant superintendent of operations, and Dr. Ted Lombard, coordinator for Safety, Athletics and Discipline for the Fayette County School System.
(L-R) Mike Sanders, assistant superintendent of operations, and Dr. Ted Lombard, coordinator for Safety, Athletics and Discipline for the Fayette County School System.

“One of the things we’re emphasizing is we don’t want these students to go out and do something just because somebody else is doing it,” Lombard said, “we want them to have a reason why they’re doing that, to understand what’s going on, and then to think about that, as part of developing citizens and express themselves appropriately without causing disruption.”

Keeping the protesting students and others safe is the first priority, Sanders said. Asked if there were a “red line” that could not be crossed, he said, “Leaving campus would be first and foremost, [not] respecting others, any type of violence, destruction of property, those types of things. But we have great kids in Fayette County, and we don’t anticipate any of that.”

Parents and students can expect an increased presence of law enforcement on Fayette school campuses next Wednesday, strictly as a precautionary measure “for visibility,” Sanders said.

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The following email was received at 5:07 p.m., March 8:

A Message from the Fayette County Superintendent of Schools

March 7, 2018

Dear Fayette County students, parents,and citizens:

The tragic school shooting incident in Broward County and other losses of life, both on and off school campuses across the nation, have created a sense of anxiety and concern for us all. Our educators are most sensitive about our children and their well-being, particularly while they are in attendance at school. Our top priority is to ensure our students’ safety while providing them with a world-class education.

Due to these senseless actions over the last several years, we are beginning to see interest in student-led civic engagement efforts and actions including the idea of school “walk-outs.” Based on social media messaging, it appears there are a variety of student-led efforts underway both locally and nationally.

Fayette School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Barrow. File photo.
Fayette School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Barrow. File photo.

While the school district is not supporting walk-outs, Fayette County Public Schools does support our students’ reasonable exercise of their constitutional rights around free expression.

I encourage our parents to discuss these issues with their child(ren). Our goal in proactively addressing potential walk-outs and other forms of expression is to remain focused on teaching and learning while providing guidance and planning to support student and staff safety.

As you learn about student-led efforts, I want you to know the position of the district. We highly discourage any disruption to the regular instructional school day. The following is guidance that has been given to our building principals and school leaders as we move forward:

• Remind students that counseling support is available to any student,and that Fayette County Public Schools encourages students to reach out.

• Meet with student leaders to assess needs and coordinate before and/or after school plans for that particular school site.

• With student input, provide space on campus for students to assemble peacefully (before and/or after school), but also ask students not to move off of campus for their own safety and security.

• Remind students that Fayette County Public Schools supports their rights to peaceful assembly and appropriate free expression, but that the school/system priority is about teaching and learning. Should negative/disruptive behavior occur, such as walk-outs during the school day, the Fayette County Student Code of Conduct remains in place and will be enforced accordingly.

• Help ensure that any efforts to invite participation are open, and that the events be inclusive of all students.

• Ask students to be respectful of students on campus who may not wish to participate, and/or students who may hold opposing views to those being shared during a planned event.

• Tell students that there may be increased staff, along with the presence of local law enforcement agencies, and that this is for student and staff protection and safety.

• Assess if there are teachable moments that could be relevant to class instruction or lessons.

• Invite student ideas for improving campus safety, security and culture.

Please know that our district takes the safety and security of our children and staff very seriously, and we do have multiple contingencies and safety plans/protocols in place; however, your positive input is always welcomed.

As a parent of school-aged children in our district, I am fully aware of the anxiety that parents are feeling across the nation, but as adults and students alike, we must not allow the evil in this world to distract us from our hope of a better future. Please reach out to your school or district administrator should you have questions.

Joseph C. Barrow, Jr., Ed.D.

Superintendent

Fayette County Schools