Jackson students walk out to protest gun violence

Principal hopes to eliminate the cause of deadly shootings
By Dan Aznoff | Mar 01, 2018
Photo by: Bill Trueit

While school administrators across the country brace for student walkouts to protest gun violence later this month, the principal of Jackson High is taking action to eliminate the cause of violence on his Mill Creek campus.

Dave Peters said the staff at Jackson was prepared for the walkout that took place at Jackson last week and are ready for the protests that will coincide with walkouts at high schools across the country on March 14. Additional demonstrations are scheduled on April 20.

Teachers did not try to discourage about 75 students who walked out of class for 17 minutes last Wednesday, Feb. 21, one week after a shooting spree left 17 students dead at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

In a letter sent home to parents, Peters explained that his priority is student safety.

“Students who participated in the walkout were respectful of their peers and school staff. They returned to class after 17 minutes, and school continued to operate on our normal schedule.”

Peters tried to rationalize the freedom of speech with the educational opportunity.

“We realize student-led events can be a learning experience for students, and we want to balance that experience with the safety of all students. Peaceful demonstrations must be held in designated places that present no hazards or disruption to the school day. Although not excused from an attendance perspective, we did not prevent students from participating.”

A separate letter sent home from the Everett District echoed Peters’ concern for the educational experience for students in the district, with clear guidelines for students planning to organize a protest.

“We encourage any student planning a student-led demonstration during the school day to notify and work with administration to ensure the safety of all students and adherence to district policies and procedures. As is standard, students who choose to participate in any student-led demonstrations will be marked tardy or absent, depending on how quickly they return to class.”

In an interview with The Beacon the day after students at Jackson walked out of class, Peters said the public is overwhelmed with the question, “How could this happen?” instead of focusing attention on the Why.

“Our job is not to dissuade a student from bringing a gun to campus to shoot teachers and other students,” Peters told The Beacon. “Our job is to take away the reason anybody would be motivated to commit such a violent act.”

The principal of the only public high school in Mill Creek said the staff at Jackson has tried to build a connection between the school and every student so they will feel safe when they come to school each day.

“Students who feel connected to the school and their fellow students are unlikely to want to harm others,” Peters said. “If you read the profiles of many of these shooters, they are often described as ‘isolated’ or ‘loners.’

“We want to create an inclusive environment at Jackson that allows every student to feel they are part of the solution. We want everybody to be connected in some way.”

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