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Penn High School students planning walkout, school district responds

MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- Some Penn High School students say they are planning a walkout on March 14 to protest "Congress' inaction" combating gun violence in schools, according to a release from the students organizing the event. PHM officials say they are working with the organizers to ensure student safety.

On March 14th at 10:00 a.m. students say they are going to walk out for 17 minutes in protest. The walkout will also be a chance for students to register to vote, the organizers said. [Click here to view the release about the walkout]

The principal of Penn High School sent this letter to students and parents:

Dear PHS Families,

Our nation’s youth, and adults, are still trying to find constructive ways to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As a result, students around the country are planning walkouts to protest school violence.

A Penn student group using the @PennWalkout (https://twitter.com/PennWalkout) Twitter handle has begun organizational plans to participate in a peaceful walkout and voter registration drive on March 14. I along with other members of Penn Administration are communicating with these students on ways we can best support their initiative in a safe environment on campus. We have the full support of P-H-M Administration and Safety and Security Team to provide a safe and secure location for those students who wish to participate.

When students advocate for an issue they feel passionate about, it can be a powerful learning experience. We also recognize that some students may not want to participate in a walkout and would prefer to stay in class. We want to assure our students and families that we will make certain all students feel safe and respected, no matter what they choose to do. As always, the safety of our students is our top priority.

If a walkout occurs as one student group is planning, school and classes will continue on their normal schedule. We will deploy staff as necessary to ensure student safety outdoors. Our goal in responding to walkout plans and other forms of peaceful assembly is to try and keep the focus on teaching and learning while also providing guidance and planning support to safeguard our students and staff. The role of our staff during this time will be to help keep our students safe. P-H-M educators play a critical role in the creation of welcoming learning environments in which students feel free to engage in the learning process regardless of their personal beliefs. It is our expectation that students will respect the rules of our school and remain on campus during the school day to protect their safety and the safety of others. We want to help them access appropriate avenues for personal expression made available to them during the school day.

We recognize that there are widely held and differing opinions about how the nation should react to this tragedy. This can be a learning opportunity that helps our students apply the citizenship lessons that they are learning in school. We encourage our students to be actively engaged citizens who are knowledgeable about multiple viewpoints surrounding current events. While some students are planning a walkout on March 14, Associate Principal Randy Williams and I have been planning schoolwide democracy lessons on March 12th and 13th to engage students in thoughtful and proactive dialogue on this topic.

Penn-Harris-Madison Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker shared yesterday (Monday, Feb. 26) with P-H-M families some of the extensive safety and security measures in place not only at Penn, but also at the district’s 11 elementary and three middle schools. In addition, I am working with P-H-M’s Director of Safety and Security Mike Seger evaluating all current student safety protocols; I will be back in touch with you to communicate any significant changes.

Please remember that if you see something, say something! P-H-M utilizes the Safe School Helpline® as a confidential way to report student concerns. There are three ways to report:

Call: 1-800-418-6423, ext. 359
Text: TIPS to 66746
Online: SafeSchoolHelpline.com

Thank you for partnering with us and feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have.


Sean Galiher, Principal

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