Students make a silent stand

District resolution: Teachers will not carry guns
By Brian Soergel | Mar 14, 2018
Photo by: Brian Soergel Hundreds of Edmonds-Woodway students staged a silent protest in the school’s courtyard.

Students at Edmonds-Woodway High School, Scriber Lake High School and College Place Middle School joined those across the district and country who walked out of classes at 10 a.m. Wednesday as part of the nationwide Enough: National School Walkout, one month after the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida.

They showed their support for gun safety legislation, while also paying respect to the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The walkouts lasted 17 minutes, one for each of the students and faculty killed. At Edmonds-Woodway, hundreds of students gathered in a circle in the courtyard in silent protest.

The national walkout was the idea of Empower, a youth branch of the Women’s March group, to protest Congress’ inaction “to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”

District Superintendent Kristine McDuffy, in a letter sent to parents and guardians, said that the walkouts were not school- or district-sponsored, and that students who participated did so voluntarily.

According to district spokeswoman Debbie Joyce Jakala, students walking out were marked absent or late. It was a student family’s decision whether to notify the school if they wanted to excuse the absence or tardy.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that students are entitled to exercise their free speech rights while at school,” wrote Edmonds-Woodway principal Terrance Mims in a letter to parents and guardians. “We will, as a school, respect our students’ rights.”

However, he noted that the walkouts would not be allowed to disrupt the learning of other students who chose not to walk out; that teachers would continue to teach the students who remained in their classes; and students who chose to walk out would be monitored by administrators and other staff.

In addition, Mims wrote, any student participating in the walkout would be allowed to participate in athletics in the afternoon, whether or not their absence had been excused. That did not apply to students who remained out of class after 10:17 a.m.

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

“One of the most important lessons we can teach our students is what it means to be meaningfully engaged citizens. Allowing students to be passionate about our country and democracy is a powerful learning experience, and allowing students to make their own choices about how to engage in our democracy is an equally powerful learning experience.”

School District resolution

A day earlier, on Tuesday, March 13, the Edmonds School District board of directors approved a resolution to “declare support for sensible gun safety legislation, to declare opposition to efforts to arm educators in our schools, and to declare support of the March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018.”

The resolution makes it clear that teachers and staff will not carry guns at school: “(The board of directors) reject the misguided suggestion that it is either desirable or appropriate to arm teachers in schools for any purpose, and will maintain existing prohibition of firearms at school, and will not support any effort to arm educators and staff.”

Policies in place already prohibit weapons and firearms on district school properties, but the resolution states that “gun violence presents a clear and present danger to the students, parents, educators, paraeducators, administrators, and support staff of the Edmonds School District.”

The resolution notes that, since 2013, there have been 291 shootings on elementary, middle, and high school and college campuses in the United States, which averages to about one per week.

There have been five school shootings in Washington state over the past eight years, including one in 2014 at Marysville-Pilchuck High School that killed four students. The 15-year-old shooter also killed himself.

The resolution to support sensible gun safety legislation to protect students and staff has a number of points:

• raising the age to purchase assault weapons to 21;

• implementing enhanced background checks for assault weapons;

• banning the purchase and sale of assault or semiautomatic rifles and of any accessories designed to increase a gun’s rate of fire;

• establishing safety programs in schools that do not include arming educators or staff,

• eliminating private gun sale loopholes;

• providing funding for thorough gun violence research, including removing the prohibition on research and data collection by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC);

• supporting prevention, intervention and community re-entry programs that reduce community and gun violence; and

• increasing funding for programs and school staffing (counselors, nurses, and psychologists) that support student mental health, social and emotional learning, and anti-bullying.

Legislative action

Locally, there is a bill in the Legislature, SB 6620, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), that would increase the legal age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21. It also would enhance background checks for assault rifles and create a reporting program in schools so students can more easily report suspicious behavior. The bill has not yet received a vote, and the latest Legislature session is now over.

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee did sign a bill to ban bump stocks, which modify semiautomatic weapons and allow them to fire shots in rapid succession. SB 5922 passed both chambers in the Legislature by slim margins and largely along party lines. The vote was 29-20 in the Senate and 56-41 in the House of Representatives.

Starting July 1, bump stocks will be illegal to manufacture or sell and, starting July 1, 2019, the accessory will be illegal to possess. The bill also allows police officers to seize the weapons and, if found, possession or use of a bump stock qualifies as a felony.

The Senate approved a House amendment that requires the Washington State Patrol to administer a buy-back program from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2019. Those who currently own bump stocks can bring the device to facilities throughout the state and receive $150 for them.


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