Last Wednesday, students and school administrators nationwide were called upon to participate in a National Walkout event, as a memorial to the 17 students who lost their lives during the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. The event was also intended to be a form of advocacy for congressional efforts to reduce gun violence. Beginning at 10 a.m., participants were asked to “walk out” for 17 minutes in honor of students who lost their lives.
Locally, Merrill Area Public Schools took a proactive approach in allowing MHS and PRMS students to participate in the national event, while striving to minimize disruption to the school day.
Administrators from MHS, PRMS and the Central Office worked together to provide a voluntary opportunity for students that included small group discussions, a moment of silence honoring the victims, and a short assembly. Each of the high school activities were voluntary and took place during non-instructional times. The middle school held an all-school assembly focused on addressing student concerns regarding safety and then provided a voluntary moment of silence with minimal impact to the school day. Parents were notified of this approach in the days leading up to the National School Walk Out Day.
“We are very pleased that we were able to come up with a solution that involved students in making the arrangements, that gave students an opportunity to discuss these issues with teachers and peers, and provided a moment of silence to honor the Douglas High School victims,” said MHS Principal Shannon Murray. “The feedback we received from students and parents, both leading up to the event and since that time, has been very supportive and positive.”
As a result of these proactive measures, disruptions to the learning environment were minimized and students took a dedicated role in contributing to the safety of their setting. For example, the middle school focused on building positive relationships and challenged their peers to walk up to 14 students and three adults, saying something positive. They recognized the need for students to feel safe in the school community.
“I’m proud of our students and how they handled themselves in this situation, it proved to be a great learning experience and offered students a chance to provide feedback on making PRMS a safer place,” stated Ryan Martinovici, PRMS Principal.
MAPS will use the information obtained during the student discussions to help in their ongoing assessment of school safety policies and procedures.
“I am very pleased with the way our students and staff handled the events of this day,” added MAPS Superintendent Dr. John Sample. “We all play a role in creating a safe environment.”
Shortly following the events in observance of the walk-out, Merrill Police Chief Corey Bennett commended the efforts from MAPS.
“I had the privilege of attending part of the school day at Merrill High School today,” Bennett stated. “I was nothing short of impressed in how MAPS addressed the events planned on this date (at the national level) with constructive solutions, accountability, and a great message for our young people! I understand PRMS was tracking along in a very similar manner as well. As a citizen, parent, and Police Chief, I am proud of our partnership with MAPS and we extend a job well done.”