School districts prepare for student walkout

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)  Groups across the country are planning a walkout Wednesday in remembrance of the Florida school shooting.

Administrators at local school districts have notified parents and students about how they plan to handle potential events today. Some are allowing students to mark the occasion, while others are discouraging disruptions during the school day.

See below for statements from various school corporations.

Statement from Fort Wayne Community Schools:

Schools throughout Fort Wayne Community Schools are planning walk-ins as a safe alternative to the national school walk-outs expected to take place in many schools across the country.
Principals have been working with student representatives to plan a safe way for students to participate, if the students so choose. Students will neither be encouraged nor discouraged from participating in the event.

At New Tech Academy, students will be writing on a pledge wall as part of the “What’s your 17?” initiative. The idea is to focus on what students can do to build the culture of a school so students don’t turn to violence or causing harm to themselves or others.

The following letter was sent to Southwest Allen County School families:

In light of the most recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students across the nation are trying to find constructive ways to deal with the aftermath of this horrific event. As a result, on March 14 students from all across the country are planning to walk out of school for 17 minutes in solidarity with the Florida students to remember those lives lost and bring awareness to the issue of gun violence in communities and schools.

At Southwest Allen County Schools (SACS) we believe there are several things which build a school community.  Our commitment to support the growth of the whole student through their academic, social, and emotional journey while maintaining a safe and orderly learning environment is one of the many keys to our success. As a school district, we cannot encourage or support our students leaving the classroom during the school day, or to willfully choose to move to an unsupervised environment such as in nationally publicized student disruptions and walkouts. Students who choose to walkout any day are subject to disciplinary measures as outlined in our schools’ handbooks and include being marked truant from class.

At Homestead High School, members of the student body have been meeting to plan an alternative student led response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. This group of students includes representatives from our Unity Club, Young Progressives, Young Americans for Freedom, Student Government, and others who showed an interest during a student discussion held after school two weeks ago. This group of students formed organically as students stayed to talk after the discussion time. The group will be communicating with students from the northeast Indiana area via a twitter handle @studentsvu (studentvoicesunited). SACS students are encouraged to be a part of the work and planning their peers are creating at Homestead. I would suggest you follow them to keep up with their plans.

SACS respects the rights of students to express themselves and appreciates student voice in drawing attention to issues of school safety. We will continue to work together to create the safest and most positive learning environments for your children. Do not hesitate to call our office if you have questions at 260-431-2051.

Dr. Phil Downs, Superintendent
Southwest Allen County Schools

The following letter was sent to Northwest Allen County Schools families:
In the wake of the recent occurrence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Fla., it seems prudent that we address some questions and concerns regarding school safety. The events of the last several months, culminating with
MSDH, have touched the collective sensibilities of all communities fueling the sentiment, “We need to do something!”
As you are likely aware, students across the country are considering “walkouts” as a means to have their voices heard. We believe that nationally-organized events are currently planned for March 14, March 24 and April 20. We feel it is important to address this topic with you directly so as to prevent any misunderstandings.
A variety of students and student groups proactively reached out to several of our secondary school administrators to discuss meaningful ways to provide opportunities for student voice and expression while maintaining a safe learning
environment. We are so blessed to have students with the capacity to challenge appropriately and create and propose alternate means of expression.
It is important that these expressions remain consistent with the school mission and purpose while also providing a forum for students. For example, when discussing the wisdom of an advertised walkout, students quickly realized that notifying the country of when they will be outside in an unsecure environment for an extended period of time does not qualify as “best practice” of safety procedures.
Many of the students recognized these safety concerns.The proposed options take into account that varying viewpoints may exist and steps toward meaningful dialogue and purposeful action may yield long-term results
regarding this national conversation. We value student voice and expression and we are committed to helping our student leaders achieve this without compromising safety.
As mentioned, our top priority is to support the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students while maintaining a safe and orderly environment. While we strongly support our students’ rights to peacefully assemble and freely express themselves, we cannot encourage students to repeatedly leave the classroom during the school day and to enter an unsupervised environment. As a result, if a student does choose to “walk out” of school, it will be counted as a truancy
in accordance with normal school policy. Of course, NACS is cognizant of the fact that this can be a teachable moment wherein students may exercise their right to be heard while understanding that there are natural consequences to civil disobedience.
Apart from any peaceful expression, NACS certainly cannot tolerate vandalism or other illegal behavior. Further, members of the community are not permitted to come on to school property during the school day to participate in or otherwise support a demonstration. Quite simply, NACS cannot properly provide for the safety of our students if it does not regulate who is permitted on campus.
NACS fully respects the rights of students to express themselves and certainly appreciates efforts to make our schools safer. That said, NACS must also provide a safe and orderly learning environment and cannot permit repeated disruptions without repercussions. We genuinely thank you for your continued support and understanding. As a school community, all of our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and communities in Parkland, as they continue to work through the
healing process.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Samuel E. DiPrimio
Director of Secondary Education
Northwest Allen County Schools
The following letter was sent to parents of students at Bellmont High School, part of North Adams Community Schools:

In wake of the recent tragedy in Lakeland, Florida, BHS staff and students have been engaging in a great deal of dialogue concerning school safety and how to keep a targeted-school violence event from happening in our school community. Fortunately, for the last several years, we’ve been working on those elements that are being promoted as best practice in preventing violence, namely focusing on developing a positive, inclusive school culture and trying to make sure students have at least one positive, encouraging adult in their lives. Too, all our administrators are trained Indiana School Safety Specialists and spend a quite a bit of time annually assessing threats, planning for potential safety events, and working with staff and students on how to prevent and be prepared for safety concerns.

More recently, we’ve given presentations on what to look for in someone who may be contemplating a violent act, when and how to report suspicious behavior, and what to do if one is confronted with a violent situation. Additionally, we’ve been focusing on training with staff this entire year on recognizing the signs of individuals who have endured trauma and how to build resiliency in those individuals, a best practice in helping change behavior and improve the ability of those with adverse childhood experiences to make positive choices. Upcoming, we will be giving an in-service to staff and students on how to stop hemorrhaging as well as school-specific active shooter training with local and State police.

Our students, too, have been active in taking a stand against school violence, asking for direction in planning meaningful, education-based events. These student leaders recognize the importance of making sure that their actions are organized and have at their heart education and positive communication. As such, as a school, we are sponsoring a 17-second moment of silence at 10 a.m. on March 14th as memorial to the seventeen slain individuals in Florida. On April 20th, the anniversary of Columbine, we will have a convocation during SRT to memorialize all victims of school violence.

The overriding messages from BHS from these events will be to be observant, communicate in a timely manner, be prepared to act, and uplift/encourage each other in our school family and larger community. As an aside, I wish to let all of you know how proud I am for how the majority of our students are showing such maturity, reflection, and passion for this topic. While we all may have different ideas on the specifics as to how to stop these mass casualty events, we all can agree they need to end. I’m excited that our young people are concerned and want to be involved in the solution. This overture is HUGE in the prevention of violence: The buy-in of our youth.

Going on, these planned school events will provide a meaningful opportunity during the school day for our students and staff to show their support for stopping the killing of innocent students and school staff as well as sympathy for the friends and families of those killed while in our schools. Any student who leaves school or fails to attend school on those days without a reason endorsed by the Bellmont High School Student Handbook will be treated as truant or unexcused as the school, again, is providing a meaningful opportunity to memorialize victims of school violence during the school day. As has been advertised in our local paper, there are other community-sponsored activities to further address the topic should you or your student wish to participate. If you have any questions, please call me at 724-7121.

Thank you,
Kim Hiatt

The following information was posted on Huntington North’s Facebook page:

Hello, Viking Parents.
This message is intended to offer communication regarding the nation-wide walkouts that have been organized for March 14. If you are not aware, there is a national movement that has organized and promoted a walkout at 10:00 am on March 14 supporting the concept of safer schools. We have received communications from parents and students indicating that some students plan to participate in this event. While we will not deny our students of this right, we are proactively setting some parameters to make sure that all stay safe. We will set up a designated area on school property for our students to walk to if they choose, and this area will be supervised by staff and law enforcement to ensure student safety on and around our campus. We will afford the students 17 minutes during this walk out time, which is the timeframe specified by the movement and in honor of the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida school shooting. We will then respectfully direct the students back to class at 10:17. Our school will still operate on a normal schedule this day, and students that do participate in the walk out will be expected to address any missed work from class.

In addition to affording students this opportunity to exercise their right during the walk out, we will be offering the following opportunities:
* A 17 second moment of silence on the morning on March 14 in honor of the victims of the Parkland, Florida tragedy
* Pledge cards will be available for student pickup during lunch where they can pledge to conduct 17 acts of kindness in honor of the Florida victims 
* Students will be challenged to think of their fellow students and find ways to connect with those that seem to be alone, show care for those that seem depressed/anxious, or speak with those that they have a conflict with. A supportive and positive student population translates to a safer school!

Please know that each of these activities is not required, and those that do participate will not be penalized or receive discipline consequences as long as they adhere to the parameters. As a reminder, these parameters are expected to be followed, are designed to ensure safety while students are in our care, and are not designed to stifle the spirit or intent of the event itself. The staff at HNHS believes this is a great opportunity to teach students the value of civic duty and responsibility. If you have any questions, please contact Huntington North High School Principal Russ Degitz at 260-356-6104. Thank you for partnering with us in the education of your child!

This poster is on display at Snider High School:


According to a spokesperson for East Allen County Schools, the district will have a moment of silence in the morning. No additional events are planned and they don’t expect walkouts.

The following letter was sent to parents and guardians at Concordia Lutheran High School: 

Hello Concordia Parents,

Wednesday, March 14, marks the one-month anniversary of the shootings on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

At 10:00 AM on Wednesday, March 14, Concordia Lutheran High School will honor and remember the 17 individuals (15 students, 2 teachers) who lost their lives in this horrific and violent attack in their school, with a
17-minute Remembrance & Prayer Event
on Concordia’s front parking lot. This
Event of Remembrance & Prayer
will include the participation of civil servants from the Fort Wayne Fire Department, the Fort Wayne Police Department, and members of our JROTC. Parents are welcome to join this peaceful and solemn event in our front parking lot from 10:00-10:17 AM. In case of rain, this event will be held in the main gymnasium.

Student participation is optional for the
10:00 AM Remembrance Event
in the front parking lot. Students who choose not to participate in the Remembrance Event will remain in the Auditorium.

Student (and Parent) parking in the front lot will be limited on March 14 so they will need to park their vehicle in the parking lot adjacent to the the tennis courts at Zollner Stadium.

Concordia strives to prepare and equip our students as compassionate and responsible Children of God. This event will be a peaceful remembrance for lives lived and that school’s are places where all community members are safe and welcomed.

Concordia is very appreciative of the student leaders from our Student Council and Students for Social Change Club who have been instrumental in the planning of this remembrance event.Prior to the 10:00 AM outdoor
Event of Remembrance & Prayer
Concordia’s students and faculty will gather for a public awareness assembly featuring Fort Wayne Police Department Captain Mitchell McKinney, who is the Director of the Community Relations Division, and a Concordia Parent.


Patrick Frerking