Milpitas: Superintendent says students will face ‘consequences’ for walkouts

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The superintendent of Milpitas schools said this week that students who choose to walk off campus during school hours to protest gun violence will face “consequences.”

In two emails sent to parents and the community, Superintendent Cheryl Jordan said while she stands by students who want to show support for those killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month, the district doesn’t condone walkouts.

The messages came as thousands of students across the Bay Area and country were readying for walkouts on Wednesday to call for ending gun violence and honor those killed on the one-month anniversary of the shooting in Parkland.

Jordan said in her first email Monday that if students “choose to leave campus, it will be an unexcused absence and consequences will be administered per their student handbook.”

Students have a free speech right “and may express their political views if it does not present a disruption to the learning environment,” Jordan continued. “Leaving campus during school hours to participate in political activity is not a safe and responsible way to work for change,” she said.

“We encourage you to talk to your children about how they may be feeling about this topic, and the importance of expressing themselves in appropriate ways at school.”

She said administrators and principals had talked with student leaders to discuss alternatives to leaving campus.

Some of the national walkout plans call for a 17-minute demonstration at 10 a.m. to honor the 17 people killed in Parkland. Jordan said the district would support a moment of silence across the district that could last up to 17 minutes, beginning around 10 a.m., at the discretion of school staff.

Jordan added that many schools will have class discussions and counselors available throughout the day.

In a followup email sent to parents Tuesday, Jordan said some students are planning to walk from Milpitas High School to the Milpitas Police Department building a few blocks away to bring attention to the issue of school safety.

She said while the district still does not condone the walkout, district staff would coordinate with police to ensure the safety of students who choose to make that walk.

“Together we will guide our students in learning how to express themselves with civility as they become active members of our democracy, and always, we strive together for a thriving school and community culture,” she said.

By contrast, Fremont’s superintendent of schools Kim Wallace told this news organization in an email Tuesday the district will not be disciplining students for participating in walkouts.

“The events are student-driven. Principals have worked with student leaders to allow them a safe space on campus to voice their First Amendment rights. If anyone does walk out, then there are designated staff to accompany them for safety,” Wallace said.

In a statement posted to the district’s website Tuesday, Wallace said teachers will stay in their classrooms with any students who do not wish to participate. To minimize “disruption to the school day,” she also said some schools may adjust their bell schedules.

“We see this event as a teachable moment to show students they do have a voice in our society and anticipate safe, productive and well-organized demonstrations,” the statement said.

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