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District, students must work together to address safety, disciplinary concerns
While the March 5 walk out by nearly 200 students at Totem Middle School may not have caught Marysville School District officials off guard, it did surprise many in the community to see students actually asking for and demanding more discipline and increased safety at their school.
The students say they dont feel safe because of alleged drug and alcohol use, a lack of discipline and fighting at the school. The district acknowledges there has been an increase in fighting two fights in December, one in January and eight in February but counters that the students were disciplined according to the discipline guidelines in the student rights and responsibilities, ranging from a three-day suspension for a first incident ... to a suspension for the rest of the semester for repeated/more serious infractions.
According to Talking Points available on the districts Web site (www.msvl.k12.wa.us), the district had prior knowledge of the walk out and the school administration acted on rumors and notified all students, during their advisory period, that walk outs were not approved and there would be disciplinary consequences if the students walked out.
Despite the warning, the students concerns were significant enough that they chose to go ahead with the walk out, knowing that they would likely face disciplinary action.
As a result, the district has scheduled a student forum for March 14 for those students who walked out (as well as any others who wish to participate). The forum is an alternative to a one-day suspension for students who walked out of class. The district says the forum is an opportunity for students to discuss their concerns and learn more about the discipline procedures at Totem and that ideas may emerge from the forum that can make the school safer.
We all share the same goal ... student safety ... and a positive opportunity for learning. The Totem staff have discussed this issue and want the March 14 day to be a learning day ... to hear and learn from students ... and for students to learn about discipline, states the Talking Points. They also feel that, because clear warnings were given by teachers to students regarding walk outs, we do need to follow the policy regarding consequences for walk outs which disrupt learning. In this case the consequence is to do what the students asked ... talk and learn more about how we can work together for a safe learning environment.
If that is truly the case and the forum is a two-way conversation where students learn from district officials and staff, and, as importantly, district officials and staff can learn from the students, then something positive can come from the walk out. If the forum is just a one-way conversation where district staff lecture the students or the students just want to complain, then nothing will have been accomplished. The forum can be a good start in the process to address the students concerns and to educate them on the districts disciplinary policies. And if successful, maybe the forum can lead to similar meetings at the districts other schools so that they, too, can benefit.
To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Stuart Chernis or Scott Frank e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.