Dear 5th-8th grade families,
Please see the message below regarding the student-led, national walk out that is planned for April 20 at 10 am. We will be speaking with students, reminding them that we can only ensure their safety if they remain at school. We will take attendance at 10 am in our upper grade classrooms, and plan to call families to alert them if their child walks out. It it unlikely that they will be accompanied by any adult staff if they choose to take public transportation to the courthouse (some middle school students have shared this as their plan, beginning at 10 am Fridaymorning). Please use the information below to have a conversation with your student prior to Friday–as the principal, it is important to me that I balance students’ wishes to demonstrate and speak their respective truths while also keeping them safe. As stated in the letter below, PPS is reminding families that we are able to keep students safe if they remain at school Friday. If you know your student will be attending this event and are able to go with them, please let me know.
The original email:
Dear PPS families,
The topic of school safety will once again be in the national spotlight on Friday, April 20, which has been designated by some groups as National School Walkout Day. The date has significance as the anniversary of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. At PPS, we support student-driven conversations and actions to make our schools as safe, welcoming and inclusive as possible. With safety as our top priority, however, we are not able to authorize activities in which students leave campus.
We hope that you take this occasion to talk with your students about how they can add their voices to the ongoing debate over school safety and gun violence. These are critical issues for which all of us must take responsibility. We also hope that you make sure your students know that the safest place to have these conversations during the school day is on campus. When students choose to leave or walk out during the school day, we are not able to guarantee their safety. Further, we have talked with the Portland Police Bureau, and they have let us know they do not have the resources to monitor or intercede in events in which students leave campus during school hours.
We will be closely monitoring school activities on Friday and will make sure school communities are kept informed if there are unscheduled walkouts or activities in which students leave campus. We have established a central “hot line” for parents and others to call with questions or concerns: 503-916-6600. This number will be staffed throughout the day on Friday.
Here are some questions and answers that may provide additional guidance:
Q: Will students be punished if they walk out?
A: Students will not be punished, but they will receive an unexcused absence if they leave school premises. Families and staff should understand that there are specific Board of Education policies on the topic of political activity or walkouts which must be observed.
Q: What if parents send a note allowing their student to participate in a walkout?
A: A note will not excuse a student to participate in activities off school premises.
Q: If students leave school property, will staff accompany them?
A: Depending on the number of students involved, principals might ask staff to accompany students to help ensure safety, but they cannot lead or actively participate in a march off campus.
Q: If students leave school property, will police help ensure safety?
A: The Portland Police Bureau says they do not have the resources to monitor unauthorized school walkouts.
Q: What can parents do to help?
A: Please discuss this important topic with your students and watch for messages from your school principal. We know from past events that students may choose to leave individually or as a group. Talk with your students about staying safe and staying in contact.
Thank you for all your support of our schools. It is a pleasure to serve your students.
Dr. Yvonne Curtis, Deputy Superintendent