Nash: “An opportunity for student civic engagement”

OXFORD — School administrators are working with local students in planning a tribute in honor of school shooting victims as part of the upcoming National School Walkout.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Kristine E. Nash released an open letter to “parents, guardians, and colleagues” on Friday, March 9, explaining the stance of Oxford Public Schools in the national protest event planned for Wednesday, March 14. At that time, participants are encouraged to stage a 17-minute walkout in honor of the 17 victims of last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Ms. Nash said administrators have had ongoing discussions with students interested in taking part in the National School Walkout. She said the dialogue has been respectful and that proper safety precautions will be taken to enable students to express their feelings on the tragedy. Officials are collaborating with local police, the superintendent said.

“We want to construct an event that honors those lives lost and that also helps to promote effective dialogue about ways that all of us can support greater safety in schools,” she said. “The administration respects the right of our students who wish to raise awareness about this issue and we believe that student voice is essential. We hope that this event will be an opportunity for student civic engagement and will promote civic learning for all.”

While students interested in the event will be able to take part, those who are opposed to the National School Walkout will continue the standard lessons and class schedule. “Those students who do not wish to participate will be able to remain in class,” Ms. Nash said. “We are encouraging teachers to support student conversations as appropriate and to also respect the diversity of opinions on this issue.”

According to the superintendent, there has been no interest expressed in participation from the elementary school levels, but students in both the middle and high schools have made their desire to participate known.

Regardless of participation in the National School Walkout, precautions continue to be taken district-wide to prepare students and staff in the event of dangerous situations taking place locally.

“Most recently, we have conducted ALICE trainings and mock drills in all of our buildings,” Ms. Nash said, referencing an active shooter response training. “In addition, the police department conducts unannounced building safety checks. Further, we are working with police, technology, and outside school safety experts to explore new types of response systems.”

Oxford is not the only public school district in the area that is working with students to coordinate demonstrations and participation in the National School Walkout. The Citizen Chronicle has previously written about other efforts, including those in Auburn, Northbridge, and at Tantasqua Regional High School.

A recent poll on The Citizen Chronicle Facebook page showed 74 percent of respondents supported school administrators coordinating with students to take part in the National School Walkout.

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