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School Committee Discusses Possible Student Walkout

Students are organizing themselves to stage a walkout in solidarity with schools across the country in memory of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

Cassie Mitchell, Editor-in-Chief

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With recent events such as the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida at the school of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a good portion of last Wednesday’s Westerly Public Schools committee’s meeting focused on school security as well as the possibility of Westerly students participating in a national student walkout on March 14th.

On March 14th at 10 in the morning, some students will walk peacefully out of class and take a 17 minutes of silence for the men, women and children who have been victims to the hateful, insidious crime of mass school shootings. It is a moment of silence and respect. This is a time to honor those who have fallen and an initiative to take more action regarding gun and mental health laws.

Superintendent Mark Garceau has acknowledge a walkout is going to happen.

The superintendent stated, “Westerly Public Schools is not quote on quote assisting students with conducting a quote, unquote protest.”

He then followed up with how the district is responding to the anticipated actions of the students by meeting with students and “with principal Grimes and I met with Principal Fusco along with… Tony Lementowitz, Anne Barnhart, Melissa Tallardy.”

Garceau also said, “We are not in a position to say student voice doesn’t matter.” The administrators across the district are preparing to handle the situation to ensure that the student body has a voice, but education continues unabated and all students feel safe.

Committee members Christine Piezzo, Patricia Panciera and Diane Bowdy said they were “thrilled” and “delighted” with the idea of the students using their voice and standing up for something bigger than them.

Panciera said, “I feel like they should protest their concern.”

Committee member Christine Misto, however, said she did not find the appeal.

Dr. Garceau wants the student body to focus on learning purposes, “which is why school is held 181 days a year.”

Senior Quinn Chappelle, former student representative to the school committee, addressed the committee during the open forum. She stated, “We [the students] are change and we are progress.”

Cassie Mitchell

After addressing committee, she relayed how her “intention was to make the committee realize there is hope and the opportunity for action should be provided in a positive format.” Chappelle feels “our local representatives have failed us. I want them to realize there is a movement even if they don’t agree with it.”

Panciera also shared a personal and inspiring detail of how she “was in school we walked out like three times at Westerly High School.” One those times the students did not even bother to notify the administration.

Members of the committee expressed concerns about whether or not this will happen again and again. This is not against the administration.

Piezzo said, “Currently, there is no formal mechanism in place so that back and forth dialogue between the students and adults” and there should be more communication between students and administration in the district.

Mike Turano, who is a safety specialist employed by the district to monitor and improve the safety of Westerly schools.

According to Turano, the district has taken measures to install more cameras resulting in 236 devices spread throughout the district to help security.

There are policemen and women at the schools, there will be training videos available to the community on the school website giving guidelines on ways to stay safe during lockdowns, fire drills and evacuations.

Administration is also educated on how to protect the children in the school.

The district is acting on issues at hand in order to keep everyone safe.

The walkout is an educational experience, whether or not a student partakes in the event. It is a valuable moment to everyone of the society and the reality of what is happening in the United States. Students may remember a scarce amount of algorithms, excerpts, poems and chemical formulas but they will always remember the day they stood up for their safety, for what they believe in, for what they want to change and that will help spark passion and change for the better of the students in the Westerly School District, in Connecticut, in Florida and around the world.

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School Committee Discusses Possible Student Walkout