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On the Issue of School Safety

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

After any tragedy, crisis, or disaster, families of students and other adults often struggle with what they should say or share with youth. That includes how to help them best cope with their emotions. Students have a lot of questions, fears, and anxieties. The following is a collection of resources designed to help. The strategies include ways to help minimize stress, restore a sense of normalcy, and open channels of communication.

Superintendent Tony Evers recently penned an editorial that speaks to the challenge educators face regarding the issue of gun control and the misguided approach of arming our teachers to defend schools. In it, he points to the power of student voice and the collaborative spirit our educators have displayed during this challenging time. “Despite the impressive display of leadership from our kids, we are without any substantive change in school-based gun violence,” Evers said. “I refuse to believe the only answer to this troubling trend is arming our teachers...we cannot afford to fail another generation with our bickering and finger-pointing.”

We are all striving to create and maintain physically and emotionally safe environments for our kids to learn. A vital aspect of that allows for the respectful sharing of views and opinions to raise awareness and promote understanding. We are all acutely aware of one path to that goal circulating widely at this time - organized protest.

The department has curated a list of resources for school districts to be proactive in determining how they will respond in the case of a school walkout. Collaborative conversations with students, faculty, families, and community members can help ensure each stakeholder’s voice is represented and that everyone understands policies and procedures. Additionally, a process for providing timely notification to staff, parents, and students about decisions related to the walkout is encouraged.

You may also be wondering if students can be disciplined for participating in the walkout. There is no state law specific to student-led walkouts. However, according to Wis. Stat. 118.15, a parent or adult student may excuse an absence for any reason for any amount of time, not exceeding ten days. For students who have accrued more than ten absences, local school boards can determine whether participation in the walkout is an acceptable excuse. For further reading on other aspects related to student discipline and the Walkout, we encourage you to read Can Schools Discipline Students for Protesting?