Students will be subject to regular attendance rules, superintendent says

The Burlington Area School District will not organize any activities in recognition of the National School Walkout on March 14 and is taking a neutral approach to the event, which encourages students to walk out of class for 17 minutes in remembrance of the students and staff killed in a mass shooting at a Florida high school last month.

In a letter to school district families Thursday, Superintendent Peter Smet wrote:

“As a public school district, we remain neutral and ask that our school community show respect for everyone as our opinions can differ. Respect that each person can choose – for the National School Walkout or any cause – whether to participate or not and no one should feel pressured either way.”

According to Smet, district administrators have discussed the possibility that students may decide to participate in the walkout on their own. In that case, Smet wrote, “Our concerns are keeping students safe and minimizing any disruption.”

Smet reminded students that they are not allowed to leave the campus and suggested they will be subject to regular attendance regulations and any consequences that come with breaking school rules.

He also suggested the occasion is a good time for parents to discuss the National School Walkout with their students regarding their intentions and the values attached to such an event, including: “Is this an appropriate way to grieve and memorialize the murdered students and teachers?”

The complete text of Smet’s letter appears below:

Dear Families:

It has been widely publicized that March 14 has been designated as “The National School Walkout.” Across the nation, a school walkout is taking place at 10 am for 17 minutes. The Burlington Area School District has chosen not to organize any activities related to the walkout. Classes and instruction will take place as normal in all of our schools.

Even without the District coordinating a planned activity, we recognize that students may choose to participate. Students, especially our older students, have the ability to organize on their own and can often mobilize quickly through social media. If students organize any activity, we ask that they follow school rules and not disrupt the education of their fellow students.

What does your child plan to do? This provides an opening for parents to have age- appropriate conversations with their child about the National School Walkout and their child’s intentions. Why would participating be important or not important to them? What do they see as the goal of this demonstration? Do they understand the consequences if school rules are broken? Do they understand your expectations for participating or not participating? Is this an appropriate way to grieve and memorialize the murdered students and teachers?

Administrators have discussed the possibility that our students may initiate a walkout on their own. Our concerns are keeping students safe and minimizing any disruption. We want to remind students that they are not allowed to leave campus without prior approval from the school attendance office. Parents must excuse their student to leave school grounds. As is our daily practice at the high school, attendance will be taken at the beginning of each class period and absences will be recorded.

As a public school district, we remain neutral and ask that our school community show respect for everyone as our opinions can differ. Respect that each person can choose – for the National School Walkout or any cause – whether to participate or not and no one should feel pressured either way.

Every day, the Burlington Area School District’s seeks to develop the intellectual, physical, vocational, creative, cultural and social capabilities of our students. As mentioned in my February 23 email, we want our students to always be safe at school and we will continue to communicate with families as necessary about this and other important issues.

Thank you,

Peter Smet,

Superintendent

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