Let students protest without punishing them

Superintendent Joseph Barrow, I wish to thank you very much for your letter of March 7, 2018, with your thoughts, ideas, and specific information about consequences in reference to possible school “walk-outs.”

Like you, I have a child in a school in the county. And, just like you, I have the highest concern for the safety of all students in our county, and all over the country. However, here is where we have a stark difference of priorities. My priority for assurance of safety surpasses all other concerns, but with “world-class education” being a close second.

The school shooting in Broward County in Florida, with the loss of 17 innocent lives to a mentally derailed shooter, was a 100 percent easily preventable tragedy. No loss of life would have occurred, if the “system” had worked the way it was supposed to. The public had already repeatedly reported the imminent specific risk, but they were speaking to deaf ears.

The premier law enforcement and intelligence agency in the World, the FBI, knew all about it. The Broward County Sheriff’s Department knew all about it. The local police department knew all about it. And, to top it off, the law enforcement officers on the scene did nothing to stop the slaughtering in the school while it was going on.

This disaster was clearly foreseen for weeks, months, and even years before it happened, but unfortunately, nobody did anything to prevent it.

This was “only” a very local tragedy. However, the rule of probability would say, that if it could happen in Broward County, then there are many, many other counties where it could and would also have happened.

The same rule of probability would also say that if all the here-mentioned law enforcement agencies failed, then there are many, many other law enforcement agencies across the country, where the same failures could and would also have happened.

The problem here is not a need to reach out to or from the students to assess their needs. Everybody already knows that their needs are to be assured of their safety in school, so they can absorb this “world-class education” undisturbed.

The sole problem is that the responsible parties have not done what they were supposed to do. The public has already done what they could by notifying the authorities, but they still failed. We don’t need more police to fight a battle outside the school door. We need to prevent the unfit individuals from having access to guns.

The students, all of us, need to wake up the responsible parties in Washington and across the country. Nothing else has worked until now. It is my hope that this walkout will finally work.

By not aggressively acting to eliminate the evil in this world, we are contributing to the destruction of our hope of a better future.

For more than 50 years I have been teaching constant evaluation of the “cost-benefit factor.” For more than 20,400 flying hours I have constantly been evaluating the risk-reward-relationship, as I prefer to call it, in my cockpit. This is a necessary step in making informed decisions. It would appear to me, that that evaluation has not been applied realistically here.

Nothing — none of the previous mass shootings have woken up the authorities or have had any noticeable results. No adult action has worked. Now our bright students have given up on us. Now they will make a peaceful attempt, across the nation, to wake up the people who can make the much-needed changes.

I sincerely admire what I have seen from those students so far, and only hope that one day we will see the light as clearly as they do, so we will be able to make the required effective changes ourselves.

We have miserably failed these young students. We owe them an apology for letting them down and not a punishment for finally effectively speaking up and try to correct our failures.

If the 17-minute walk-out can prevent just one more innocent life being taken in a school shoot-out, then the reward has certainly outweighed the risk in my evaluation.

In Peachtree City, right here in Fayette County, we have an outstanding police department with an absolutely astonishing chief. With the extra police protection during the walkout, I would evaluate the “safety and security” risk for participating students as significantly less than the risk during their daily commute.

When the school system can accommodate for the loss of “teaching and learning” during 2, 3, or more days of weather-related closings, then I feel confident that 17 minutes of walk-out can also be absorbed without major problems.

Dr. Barrow, I understand that in your position you had to write that letter. I am as proud of our school system as you are. However, now I am insistently asking you to reevaluate the associated risk-reward-relationship, and to permit the students to exercise their first amendment rights without punitive repercussions, but with the guidance and assistance from both the school and the police department.

If you feel the need for that, you could require that the students get a letter of consent from their parent(s)/guardian(s).

Jorgen Brandt-Nielsen
Peachtree City, Ga.