IRSD superintendent calls for safe in-school settings for ‘walkout’ activities

SELBYVILLE – Indian River School District Superintendent Mark Steele last week via the district’s website issued an important message to parents and students regarding the national school walkout planned for Wednesday, March 14.

The nationwide walkout is planned to protest gun violence in schools, plea for gun reform legislation and honor the 17 victims killed in the recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele

Mr. Steele’s message is as follows:

Dear Indian River School District Parents,

The recent school shooting that occurred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has left our nation in a state of grief, fear and anger.  Our hearts and prayers go out to the parents and families, as well as, the entire school community.

Our school district is fully devoted to the safety of our students and staff.  Our district has been active in the implementation of school safety initiatives since 1999.  The passing of last year’s referendum enabled us to continue and add safety initiatives to strengthen our ability to keep our schools safe.  Some of these initiatives include:

  • Hiring a highly trained and armed School Safety Monitor for each of our schools;
  • Hiring five School Resource Officers (SRO’s) to provide additional safety and to train our School Safety Team how to respond to various events within and outside the school;
  • Hiring of Clinical Counselors to work closely with our schools to provide services to students with emotional needs;
  • Securing the main entry at all schools to require visitor screening before granting access to the building;
  • Monitoring all exterior and interior doors, making sure they remained locked at all times;
  • Designating a School Safety Team in each building that meets regularly to look at new issues related to school safety and security, identifies best practices, and addresses training for staff and students;
  • Supplying all schools with radios to enhance communication.

The district is fully aware of the planned events scheduled to take place on March 14, 2018.  I have consulted with police agencies, school safety personnel and building principals about the National School Walkout.  The overwhelming concern that I have is the safety of the students while outside in an open area.  Staff would be required to remain in the building with students who are not participating in the events.  We are not able to provide the same level of safety as we can with the students being inside the building.  As a parent and grandparent, I feel compelled to share this concern with all of you.

Our district policy (JF) “Student Rights and Responsibilities” addresses student protests.  According to the policy:

“Students have the right to hold peaceful assembly involving free discussions, passing of resolutions, and exercising lawful action pertaining to matters which directly concern their educational progress.

The school administration shall require that meetings or assemblages be held at times and places which will not disrupt classes or other scheduled school activities; will not present hazards to persons or property; and will avoid conflicts through reasonable (preferably 24 hours) advance notice of intent to hold meetings.”

A school walkout would not only be a major safety concern, but a disruptive event to the educational process for all students.  Therefore, we do not support this protest and our expectation is that students will remain in the building, as we are unable to provide the same level of safety outside in an open area.  We will adhere to all district policies related to this issue.

As an educator, I also feel compelled to teach our students the importance of engaging in civic and social discussions on what is occurring around them.

I have requested that our secondary principals work with the students and staff in each of their buildings to develop activities within the safety of our buildings that will provide students a way to voice their concerns no matter where they fall in this debate.

This will give students a way to express their views and will enable us to keep all of our students safe.  I am asking that you please discuss this issue with your child prior to this event.

In closing, let me reassure you that our district will support students and staff who may have questions, raise concerns, or need reassurance when talking about school violence.  Our school board, district administration and school safety teams all stand together in making a commitment to work diligently in making our schools a safer place for everyone.

As always, should you have any questions or would like to discuss further please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Mark L. Steele, Superintendent Indian River School District

31 Hosier Street

Selbyville, DE  19975

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