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Area HS students make plans to join national walkouts

  • The south side of the new wing of the Greenfield High School. Recorder/Paul Franz PAUL FRANZ



Recorder Staff
Monday, March 05, 2018

As Franklin County students returned to school from winter break, they returned to a renewed national conversation swirling around gun violence that has prompted conversations in high schools of potential walkouts in sympathy with two national student protests.

The protests are being organized around March 14 or 24.

While school mass shootings have become more regular in recent years, the effects of the Parkland, Fla., massacre seem to be sticking with students and faculty in a different way this time around, according to Greenfield High School Principal Karin Patenaude.

This time, the conversations led by high school students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people died, have spurred discussions around safety and security in high schools. The conversations have not just been seen on TV screens across the country, but also in classrooms around the county.

“They actually are being the voice of change and really are being the advocates for something different in this country,” Patenaude said about the Parkland students. “I think because they’re almost adults, that message is really resonating in the media and over social media.”

Patenaude and high school principals across the county are all preparing for some of their students to join that conversation in one of two national walkout days as a way to exercise their voices on safety, security and gun violence.

“Civic engagement is one of the most important lessons we can all learn, and I want to work with my student leadership to have them be able to participate in this nationwide dialogue, in ways that are constructive for themselves and their peers,” Mohawk High School Co-Principal Lynn Dole said. “This is an important learning opportunity and we are really glad to be planning with our student leadership as they plan for this.”

There’s been constructive dialogue with her and students at Mohawk, Dole said, as they try to recognize their “peers have diverse feelings that they need to be conscious of as well.”

At Pioneer Valley Regional School, Principal Jean Bacon is working with students through the advisory program to coordinate the walkout. Students are “thinking about not only the national conversation but thinking about what kinds of conversations we need to have at the local community to help prevent us from having this kind of violence on any campuses,” Bacon said.

Bacon stressed a desire to be partners with her students to “best utilize this to make our school a more safer and caring place, and make our voices as students and educators heard in a broader way.”

Greenfield, Mohawk and Pioneer principals all noted that despite the walkouts by students, there is always a conversation around safety and security for its students. In this case, the students are looking at the national movement to show their support.

“They are caring, committed and involved in all sorts of issues and world problems,” Patenaude said about her student body. “They’re so compassionate and caring, and this is something they really want their voices heard.”

Turners Falls High School Principal Annie Leonard and Frontier Regional School Principal Darius Modestow said in emails they have been approached by students about walkouts as well.

“I applaud them for showing leadership and civic engagement on the issue of school safety,” Leonard said in an email. “These students and others will be in the lead, with the support of school staff, to organize an option for students to participate in the walkout.”

Frontier doesn’t have any concrete plans yet, Modestow said.

Franklin Technical School Principal Shawn Rickan said he has had some students approach him about walkouts. “Our student body is a bunch of really good people and we just go with the flow,” he said. For students who have had questions, Rickan said he has encouraged teachers to direct the students to guidance staff.

“It’s a learning opportunity, and it’s an opportunity for people to express how they feel,” Rickan said. “We’re in support of people in our school expressing how they feel, and we want to make sure kids and faculty are comfortable with the conversation.”

Armed teachers?

While some principals did not feel comfortable commenting on a national conversation as to whether teachers should be armed in school, those who did comment were clear in their opposition.

“When you think about it, what we need here is not more guns on school campuses but fewer guns on school campuses,” Bacon said. “That’s work we do every day — to keep our students and staff safe.”

Dole said she doesn’t see that as a “constructive solution to the challenges that the nation faces.”

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264