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Resources to Ensure Student Safety During Walkouts or Protests

Resources to Ensure Student Safety During Walkouts or Protests
empty lunch tables on school campus


Students often use their powerful voices and their feet to ask for meaningful policy changes at the state and federal level to address issues important to them.   

School leadership and staff members are responsible for providing a safe environment for students’ voices to be heard while ensuring the orderly operation of the school is not disrupted and the physical safety of students is not threatened. This is an opportunity to provide guidance on how students can be civically engaged and politically aware through an educational lens. 

In order to keep students safe before, during, and after demonstrations, strategies need to be in place and the school must be prepared. Through planning, educators can offer authentic, age-appropriate ways for students to participate in the national conversations and explore ways to take informed civic action.

There are steps you can take now to ensure the safety of your young people during a student-organized protest or walkout. 

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Student Rights  How to Prepare  Alternatives  School-Sanctioned Marches 

Staffing  For Younger Students  After Walkouts

 

Understanding Student Rights

Prepare Early

  • Make sure you have a plan in place before you need it.
  • Talk to your principals and union leadership to get a sense of how much employee participation in the walkouts you can expect.
  • Work with your law enforcement partners to create a contingency plan in the event of a large, prolonged walkout. Will they post officers outside your schools? Ask them what their response will be, and ensure student safety (versus punishment) is the focus. This guide may be helpful in developing your response plan in the event of a student walkout or protest. 
  • Educate parents and guardians about what your school does to keep students safe. Inform them that there are walkouts scheduled and, if known, share what you're doing to engage students so they don't need to walk out. Communicate often using a variety of channels (letter home, auto-dialer message, website post, etc.). These parent template letters can help you in reaching out to families before a planned walkout or after one has occurred
  • Show compassion. This is difficult for everyone involved and emotions are high on all sides.
  • The U.S. Department of Education's Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools summarizes the lessons learned by the Los Angeles Unified School District through its experiences with student walkouts and provides additional details on preparing for walkouts.

Provide Alternatives to Walking Out

  • Provide an outdoor venue for a hosted march of students during the appointed time.
  • Suggest students march after school and work with them to agree upon rules for a peaceful march.
  • Allow students to draft petitions or contact lawmakers about their concerns within the context of a social studies, civics, or English language arts class.
  • Have students read and discuss pertinent articles or review media and evaluate coverage.
  • SDCOE compiled resources to help educators prepare for and facilitate dialogue with compassion and teach about voting, elections, and civic engagement.

Create a School-Sanctioned March

  • Another option is to design a school-sanctioned march to take place during a wider, planned walkout event.
  • Plan a safe route of travel from classrooms to a designated on-campus spot.
  • Work as a student and staff leadership team to design an activity that allows students to express concerns or talk about ideas, goals, and plans.
  • Co-create or identify appropriate conduct during the march.
  • Consider inviting community and law enforcement members to support your dialogue efforts. 
  • Clearly communicate your plans to parents and guardians.

Staffing

  • Work with your human resources team to develop a message to employees regarding your expectations during walkouts.
  • Consider having subs on call in case you have a higher than usual number of teacher absences due to the protests.
  • You have the right to restrict access to campus for employees who call in sick on the day of a walkout.
  • Employees who are on duty during the time of a walkout should not be released to participate in non-school-sanctioned walkout activities.
  • Designate employees on each campus to accompany or monitor any students who do walkout. The district is still responsible for the students' safety.
  • Consider posting employees at campus entrances during the walkouts to provide reports to school and district administration regarding the number of students leaving campus, the direction they're heading, etc.
  • Have a plan for what to do with students who remain on campus.
  • Remind employees that their obligation is to help students develop beliefs and opinions of their own on these issues, not to impose or share their personal beliefs and opinions.
  • Consider polling employees ahead of time to assign employees who are interested in being part of the walkout to supervise those students, and assign those who are not interested to supervise and instruct students who are not participating in the walkout.  

For Younger Students

Elementary school-aged children would be best served by sticking to their usual routine. If that's not possible because of staffing issues, consider offering extra recess or holding an assembly on positive character traits, kindness, or building school spirit in an outdoor area with seating. Doing so may relieve staffing pressure if you have a high number of teacher absences on walkout days.

After Walkouts

Once the walkout is over, safely guide students back to school and back to class. If the walkouts are prolonged and have high participation, be prepared to submit a J-13A waiver to recover apportionment losses.


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