Washoe Schools Ready for Another Round of Walkouts

 

Wooster High School students during the March 24 walkout. Image: Ty O’Neil

The Washoe County School District sent the following e-mail to parents concerning a nationwide student walkout planned Friday to draw attention to the need for tougher gun laws:

Dear Washoe County School District families,

Students across the nation – including some students in the Washoe County School District – have said that they are planning to walk out of class on Friday, April 20, which is the 19th anniversary of the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

We empathize in the national concern over school safety and we continue to work to prevent a tragedy like the one in Florida—and to ensure our staff and students are prepared for any type of emergency that might occur at our schools.

Organizers acknowledge that the local event is a political protest regarding gun control and/or the prevention of gun violence.

We would like to answer these related questions:

What is the position of the Washoe County School District on this latest planned walkout?

Unlike the student-led walkout that took place on March 14th involving large numbers of students assembling peacefully in memory of the victims of the Parkland, Fla. shootings, the April 20th event may involve students planning to leave their respective school campuses and not return. While the Washoe County School District understands and respects the emotional component of these events, and while we continue to be supportive of students and their right to demonstrate peacefully, we cannot support the act of leaving school grounds without permission during the instructional day.
It is important to know that disorderly conduct that disrupts the learning environment is not acceptable and will be handled compassionately, but firmly in accordance with Student Conduct Codes and Rules, Board Policy, and Administrative Regulations.

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Why can’t the District excuse students who participate in walkouts?

Nevada law (NRS 392.040) requires that all children between the ages of 7 and 18 to attend school. Nevada law (NRS 392.130) also requires the District to mark students unexcused and notify parents if their child does not show up to class.
WCSD strives to ensure students are safe during the school day, and we cannot monitor the safety of students who walk off campus without parental or administrative permission.

What is the consequence if a student chooses to participate in a walkout?

If a student decides to participate in a walkout, they will be marked tardy or absent.

What if students walk out of class without permission but decide to remain on campus?

Normal disciplinary procedures would be considered and applied as needed. All students must remember that disorderly conduct that disrupts school operations is not acceptable and is a clear violation of the school and district rules and policies.

What is the role of Washoe County School District employees?

School Board policy precludes employees from engaging in any activity supporting or opposing a partisan political cause while on duty, while on school property during school hours, or while representing the school. Employees who participate in any political activity do so on their own time and, if applicable, must take a personal day and arrange for a substitute.

As a parent or guardian, what can I do before the walkout takes place?

We encourage families to have a discussion with their student(s) about their beliefs related to the walkout. Discuss your family’s expectations for their actions and behavior on April 20. Remind students that their school is interested in respecting their wishes, but cannot support the act of leaving school property, or being absent for such an activity.

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Students who decide to participate in a walkout must acknowledge the limited amount of supervision that may be available, as the District does not have the resources to monitor the safety of students off campus.

We ask students who decide to participate in a walkout to peacefully assemble, conduct the activity without disturbing the teaching, learning, and educational setting at their school, as well as the community around their school, and then return to class.

What is the school district doing to create safer schools?

The Washoe County School District has spent more than $1 million in safety and security upgrades and have recently accelerated our plans to install “single point of entry” at all elementary schools. This will be completed by the end of 2019.
Additionally, we teach every student the concepts of social and emotional learning and through this we are creating better school climates and reducing bullying. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

I still have specific questions and concerns about my student and/or my student’s school. Where do I go for answers?

Your school’s administration will be glad to discuss additional questions or concerns.

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