Hartford Public Schools Announces Plan to Allow Students to Walkout on March 14th Without Disciplinary Action

Hartford Public Schools Announces Plan to Allow Students to Walkout on March 14th Without Disciplinary Action

Today, March 6, 2018, Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and Mayor Luke Bronin announced that Hartford Public Schools (HPS) and the City of Hartford will provide students in eighth grade and above with opportunities to participate in the 17-minute National School Walkout on March 14th in an organized and safe manner, without being subject to disciplinary action. HPS is also working to give students alternate forums for social and political expression in addition to the walkout.

After the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, middle and high school students in Hartford have expressed interest in participating in the National School Walkout scheduled for March 14th at 10:00 AM. Hartford Public Schools will have a plan to make sure walkouts occur safely at each school, and it will be implemented in a way that minimizes disruption of daily classwork.

“Our students, families and staff are feeling a great sadness and frustration stemming from school shootings. Schools must be safe havens in our communities, places where students and families can find someone they can trust and feel supported,” said Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez. “This is an extraordinary situation calling for extraordinary measures. With the recommendations made to me by our working group, we will make sure that schools respect student voices and also protect the learning process from unnecessary disruptions. I want to thank the working group for their commitment and commend our student leaders for helping to frame the dialogue and sharing their ideas. I also thank every one of our partners who are supporting the organized learning activities on March 14th, including Mayor Luke Bronin, City Offices and Officials, the Hartford Police Department, local universities and community agencies.”

“I’m enormously proud that Hartford is supporting students who are courageously raising their voices and engaging in this important national debate,” said Mayor Bronin. “The Hartford community knows the grief and pain of gun violence all too well. As soon as the national student movement announced plans for the March 14th demonstration, the superintendent and I began discussing how Hartford could thoughtfully and responsibly embrace student speech, not suppress it. I have offered the full support of City departments to ensure that the walkouts are safe, and I want to thank the superintendent, the working group she established, the Board of Education, and the many Hartford students and faculty who participated in this planning process.”

“This is important because it is an opportunity for the whole student body to come together and share their voice. It is an empowering movement that brings students together to share their ideas and find a solution. This is the first time this is being done in recent history, and it’s amazing to see the high level of involvement and willingness of the students to participate,” said HMTCA junior Alexa Marotta, student representative at the Hartford Board of Education.

A working group was proactively established shortly after the Parkland shooting to explore how HPS could respond to the National School Walkout movement and how HPS could facilitate structured learning experiences more broadly. The working group considered how schools can give students alternate forums for social and political expression, including providing safe spaces on campus for student-led discussions. Schools will make a positive effort to continue to bring this national debate on gun safety into the classroom as a teaching opportunity on freedom of speech, student safety, restorative justice, civics and community engagement. Those discussions are ongoing and will be implemented on a school by school basis.

Due to safety and classroom instruction concerns, HPS does not want any students leaving campus. Instead, we have a plan to identify spaces in school, like the gym or cafeteria, for students to openly share their point of view.

HPS’ guidelines for the National School Walkout on March 14th:

  • The demonstration consists of a 17-minute walkout in remembrance of the 17 lives that were lost in the Parkland, Florida shooting.
  • Peaceful and organized demonstrations or protests led by students must be approved by the school principal.
  • Disruptive walkouts that are not coordinated with the principal will not be supported and will be considered in violation of the Student Code of Conduct.
  • Participation in the walkout is optional and limited to students in eighth grade or above.  Students who participate in the walkout consistent with school guidelines (including walking to designated areas and not leaving campus) will not be subject to disciplinary action.
  • Students choosing to extend the walkout or otherwise act in a manner out of compliance with the established guidelines will be considered in violation of the Student Code of Conduct.

“I believe in schools as sanctuaries, places of safety and learning. Our mission is to create conditions for students to transform their world,” said Dr. Torres-Rodriguez. “We remain committed to creating safe environments for our students.”