R-2 students would need permission to participate in March 14 walk-out honoring Florida shooting victims

Roxie Murphy

Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner said Tuesday that he has not heard of any local students who would like to participate in the Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER movement March 14 that encourages teachers, students, administrators, parents and allies to walk out for 17 minutes — one for every person killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida.

Garner said he has asked local administrators at the building levels if they have heard students express an interest. He said he has also talked to administrators in schools from here to St. Louis.

“We just want our kids to be safe,” Garner said. “St. Louis was concerned if students wanted to leave the building. It would be difficult to ensure their safety if they are outside.”

Garner said while he has not heard of any students who want to participate, he also does not want to prevent them from the activity. It is a safety issue, and if students want to participate, they need to talk to a teacher or the principal.

“Walking out of the building is just unsafe,” Garner said. “Walking out of a classroom without the teacher knowing the reason why is also a bad idea.”

Garner said the district doesn’t have a policy per say for students leaving the classroom without permission. “We do everything on a case-by-case basis,” Garner said. (See www.GasconadeCountyRepublican.com for a story on plans at Belle).


BELLE — Maries R-2 Superintendent Dr. Patrick Call says a plan is in place for those who would like to participate in the Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER movement March 14 that encourages teachers, students, administrators, parents and allies to walkout for 17 minutes — one for every person killed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida.

“We are staying inside,” Call said Tuesday morning when asked about the school district’s plan. “Lea (Hickerson, high school principal) is going to work something up.”

Call and Hickerson both said having the students go outside during the 10 a.m. nationwide event next Wednesday would be a safety issue.

“Not so much what we think our kids will do, but because it has been advertised nationwide. I don’t want to make the kids a target,” Call said.

“We welcome them to exercise that right, and express themselves,” Hickerson said. “But I would also ask that they not leave the building for their own safety.”

Jeff Schultz, a counselor at the middle school, said his school also has a plan in place, but they have not heard of any students who wish to participate.

“We have not really put it out there,” Schultz said.

According to administrators, comments from the students are mixed. The nationwide call for action is also advocating for stricter gun-control laws and more mental health resources for treating troubled peers.

“We are going to tell them we are going to take the time to honor the kids that were killed in Florida,” Call said. “That is more important for the kids in our community than the other things surrounding that.”

He added that it is not just the 17 recent deaths that they would be honoring, it’s for all that has happened, for all the kids that have lost their lives in these shootings.

“This is on everyone’s mind,” Call said. “And we are going to take minutes for them and hope that will make an impact and ask kids to be quiet during that time. This is not a time to yell at each other, it is a somber moment that staff will supervise.”

Call added that a full-on walkout would be against school policy.

“A walkout is against our rules; if students did a true walkout it could come under discipline policies,” he said.

Some community members, such as Trish Drewel, have spoken out against the walkout. Drewel suggests ways students could honor those who died in a way that would affect others much longer than a walkout would.

She suggested students “talk to 17 kids in school that they’ve never talked to before; tell something nice to 17 kids that aren’t in their clique and mean it; do 17 nice deeds during the school day; take 17 minutes of the first school hour and sit in total silence,” Drewel wrote in a Facebook post. 

“Better yet, write a 17 sentence letter to a parent that lost a child in Parkland or to your legislator; plant 17 seeds and ‘grow’ the change,” Drewel continued. “There are so many constructive things that can be done in memory of these kid. Don’t waste your opportunity, do something different that can truly make a difference.”

So many are talking about the safety the students following the recent shootings, The Advocate asked Hickerson if  students and faculty feel safe.

“I think it is something that has become part of the mind-set because of events, but is it a day-to-day fear? No,” Hickerson said. “I feel completely safe at work and with the kids. I think it is the unknown, not the day-to-day.”

Belle Marshal Joe Turnbough said if students are going to participate in the walkout, he did want to have officers on site.

“I agree, if you head outside towards the track, that wouldn’t be in the front of the building, which would be a lot safer,” Turnbough said.

He added if plans do change, and students go outside, they should stay together in a group.

“The safest thing to do is stay inside, if you go outside, stay together, do not separate,” he said. “If something did go wrong, and they were scattered, it would not make for an easy retreat.”

Turnbough said he attended a training session in Jefferson City last Tuesday that Homeland Security hosted for active shooter situations. He said he and his officers have been brainstorming ways to make the school safer.