SUPERINTENDENT’S LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY REGARDING MARCH 14TH

March 5, 2018

Dear Members of the Marshwood Community,

On February 14, 2018, seventeen people were tragically gunned down at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Sadly, this was the eighteenth school shooting across our country since January 1, 2018. As you may know, as a result of these tragedies, there is a call for a national student walk-out on Wednesday, March 14th from 10:00 – 10:17 a.m.

In an effort to construct the district’s response to a possible student walk-out on March 14th here at Marshwood, over the past week I have: met with the MHS Student Government as well as with members of both the Eliot and South Berwick Police Departments, the district’s administrative team and I have conferred with the QEA. I have read numerous documents related to how other districts have responded to other student walkouts in the past to learn what was helpful and what was not. I have learned that March 14th is primarily a secondary student movement and our elementary principals and staff stand ready to support our younger students’ understanding of these events in developmentally appropriate ways.

As a result of this research and outreach, I have learned that it is best for districts to try to find a balance between supporting our students’ voices while at the same time providing safe and secure learning environments for our students and staff. While MSAD 35 is not encouraging, supporting or facilitating this walk-out, what the district can do is provide a safe time and place for our secondary students to gather to remember the victims of the Parkland shooting and to express their solidarity with their peers across Maine and the nation regarding safety in our nation’s schools.

Therefore, I am suspending all instructional activities at both Marshwood Middle School and Marshwood High School for seventeen minutes on March 14th from 10:00 a.m. to 10:17 a.m. At 10:00 a.m. students will be free to leave their classrooms and go anywhere within MMS or MHS for those seventeen minutes e.g. to the auditorium, cafeteria, gymnasium, corridors etc. to meet either in small groups or in large groups as they wish. In addition to these areas, if students wish to finish their homework or study for a test, there will be at least one classroom in each POD/team area that will remain open during the 10:00 – 10:17 a.m. time frame on March 14th.

However, after much reflection and conversation with our local law enforcement officials,

I am gravely concerned that the district cannot provide a reasonable level of safety and security for our students should they elect to leave either the MMS or MHS building on March 14th from 10:00 – 10:17 a.m.

Due to these heightened security concerns, faculty and staff will be posted strategically around the interior of the building as well as outside the building to politely remind students that it is not safe to be outdoors at that time and that they should return to the building immediately. However, if parents wish to have their son or daughter walk outside the school for whatever reason from 10:00 -10:17 a.m. on March 14th, they can either:

Ø provide the school with a signed note granting permission for their son or daughter to be released from school, or

Ø call the school to indicate their permission, or
Ø come to the school to pick up their son or daughter.

However, I strongly and sincerely urge parents to talk to their son or daughter about the risks of going outside the school building on March 14th from 10:00 -10:17 a.m. Sadly, as we have recently seen, even the most well organized, peaceful protests can become magnets for unstable members of our society to wreak havoc, mayhem and violence. This event, because it is linked to a national movement which will occur at the same time, on the same day across our country in many of the nation’s secondary schools poses a significant new level of risk we have not witnessed before.

It is for this reason that if students do not have their parents’ permission to leave the building and elect on their own to leave the building they will be politely asked to return to the building. If they do return to the building upon request, there will be no follow-up disciplinary action. However, if students do not have their parents’ permission to leave the building and if they do not return to the building upon request, they will be subject to disciplinary action.

Because I believe that our role as educators, is to find an appropriate balance between supporting student voice and in providing safe and secure learning environments for our students and staff, I have attached to this document an overview of the district’s expectations for students, faculty, staff, administrators, parents, community members and the press for March 14th and I ask that you all please join me in honoring “…our students’ desire for expression while still ensuring that students are kept safe and within the guardianship from the school*.”

Sincerely,

Mary Nash, Ph.D. Superintendent of Schools MSAD 35

 

*U.S. Department of Education – Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center. Lessons Learned from School Crises and Emergencies, Volume 3, Issue 1, page 8.

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Expectations for Students

With regard to students’ free speech rights, students have the right to express their views in school in non-disruptive ways [Garcetti v. Ceballas, 547, U.S. 410, 421 (2006)]. Therefore, it is the district’s expectation that students remain respectful and orderly from 10:00 to 10:17 a.m. on March 14th.

Expectations for Faculty, Staff and Administrators

While educators can “…engage in off-the-clock political and community action to advocateforpoliciesthatwillmakeourschoolssafer”* becausethedistrictisnot encouraging, supporting or facilitating this walk-out, educators can neither help students organize nor participate in this event. However, what faculty, staff and administrators can do is work together to maximize our students’ safety and security. Indeed, all of our efforts will be directed on March 14th from 10:00 – 10:17 a.m. on insuring our students’ safety and security!

Because the district will need all available staff to assist us in insuring our students’ safety and security, I am asking each administrator to carefully review and evaluate any request for personal time on March 14th to insure that we have maximum staffing available to help our district keep our students safe and secure.

Expectations for Parents, Community Members and the Press

The Eliot and South Berwick police departments have advised me to restrict vehicular traffic around both MMS and MHS on March 14th from 10:00 – 10:17 a.m. to increase their ability to assist the district in securing our campuses. Therefore, access to the MHS upper parking lot will be restricted at that time. However, if there is a need for a parent, community member or a member of the press to come to MHS on March 14th from 10:00 – 10:17 a.m. please come to the lower parking lot where Mr. Caverly and other staff will be there to assist you in checking in.

Similarly, access to the front of MMS will be restricted and if there is a need for a parent, community member or a member of the press to come to MMS on March 14th from 10:00 – 10:17 a.m. please come to the rear of MMS where staff will be there to assist you in checking in.

*NEA Advisory – Responding to Student Walkouts Protesting School Gun Violence.

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