Olson: Peaceful student protests OK

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Dr. Stan Olson, superintendent of Coeur d’Alene public schools, read the following statement at Monday night’s school board meeting. School officials shared it Tuesday with district staff, families, high school students and community members.

Students and families:

You may be aware that students across the nation are organizing school walkouts or demonstrations in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Some of our high school students indicate they plan to participate in a walkout on March 14. We recognize their rights to peaceful assembly and free expression, and to advocate for causes that are important to them.

District and school administrators are working with student organizers and teachers to ensure the students can express themselves through peaceful assembly on campus in a way that protects the safety of everyone, including those who participate in a walkout and those who do not, and respects the views of every member of our school community.

In addition, it is important to know that disorderly conduct that disrupts school operations is not acceptable. Inappropriate behavior that threatens school safety will be handled immediately and firmly in accordance with our policies and student code of conduct.

Students will not be disciplined for peacefully participating in a walkout. When the activity concludes, students are expected to return promptly to class for the rest of the day’s planned instruction. Attendance will be taken, and any student who fails to return will be marked absent.

We welcome the opportunity to work with any student or student group to discuss appropriate ways to express their views while at school. Our intent is to support their rights and ensure their safety. We welcome any of our students to share their ideas for improving campus safety, security and culture.

We understand that some family members or members of our community may wish to join the students or observe the walkout. While we appreciate those intentions, we respectfully ask that you refrain from visiting the schools at that time. Our school staff and School Resource Officers will need to focus on supervising the student activities, while teachers also continue with classroom instruction. Again, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority.

Finally, I encourage students and their parents or guardians to discuss this topic and how they are feeling about it. This can be a valuable lesson on civic engagement and constitutional rights, and an opportunity to help students see the connection between what they learn in school and what they experience in life. We love the passion of our students as they learn about the world, and we recognize that student advocacy is a part of the learning process.

Thank you,

Dr. Stan Olson


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