College Place students march off campus

Protesting gun violence, they end up at ferry and district offices
By Brian Soergel | Apr 26, 2018

Edmonds-Woodway students who walked out of class April 20 in response to recent gun violence and to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting stayed on or close to campus.

But a group of College Place Middle School students went a bit further.

According to CPM Principal Sam Yuhan, about 100 CPM students walked out of school at 10 a.m. and briefly gathered at the school’s intersection at 76th Avenue West and 208th Street SW.

A small number from this group walked away from the school and were joined by about 70 other students. All of them ended up in downtown Edmonds near the ferry terminal.

“During this time, I followed this group of students to ensure that they were safe,” Yuhan wrote in a letter to parents and guardians.

“The students who opted to carry their walkout to downtown Edmonds behaved mostly in a respectful manner. I notified Edmonds Police that these students were congregated in several places within the area of the ferry terminal.”

“While students from one of our middle schools did opt to leave campus, the principal was not participating with them,” Edmonds School District spokeswoman Debbie Joyce Jakala said.

“As we did during the walkouts March 14, principals and other identified staff were asked to follow students to ensure safety.”

Later that day, a business owner near the ferry called the Beacon wondering why middle-school students were allowed to leave campus during a school day.

“We received a phone call at our business from someone saying they were with the middle school, wanting to know if their students were outside our business,” said the owner, who did not want to be identified. The Beacon later confirmed the caller was the owner.

“They were,” the owner said, “and there were quite a few of them spread around the area. (The caller) asked if we would go out and tell them to come back to their school.

“If I were a parent and sent my middle-school kid to school, I would expect them to be at school, not wandering around downtown Edmonds, not being supervised as far as I could tell, as they were on all four corners of the intersection.”

Jakala confirmed that a district staff member spoke with individuals at a business near the gathering and explained they were welcome to tell students to return to their campus.

The original student organizers led another group of about 30 students to the Edmonds School District Office on 64th Avenue West.

“They were accompanied by administrative staff from our school and spoke briefly with Superintendent Kris McDuffy before making their way to the Edmonds-Woodway High School campus to join the demonstration taking place there,” Yuhan said in his letter.

“While our preference would have been for students to remain on campus, this group of students chose to leave and, as I shared earlier this week, we provided supervision. Under these unexpected circumstances, we did the best we could to make sure students were safe.

But this decision on the part of the students resulted in some realizing they did not want to walk back, and they contacted family members for rides back to the school.”

Yuhan said he acknowledges that many CPM students feel the need to give voice to their concerns and take some kind of action to help prevent future incidents of school violence.

However, because of the choices made by this group of students, he said he spoke to them on Monday to discuss their decision and the impact this had on their school day and the staff who were pulled from normal duties on April 20.

“Demonstrations like these are an expression of students’ free speech rights and, as such, we are obliged to respect students’ choice to exercise their rights,” Yuhan said.

“Again, to be clear, these demonstrations are not school- or district-sponsored. Students who participated did so voluntarily. Staff were not participating. The school’s role was to remain neutral, neither endorsing nor planning the event.”

Students who chose to miss class were marked absent, and it’s up to the family to contact CPM to clear absences.

 

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