‘Our Thoughts Are Our Own’: Walkout Organizers Respond to School Board Candidate’s Criticisms

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

On Wednesday, March 14th, hundreds of students poured onto the West Bend High School’s football field to honor the seventeen lives that were taken on the Valentine’s Day Parkland shooting. In light of the recent discussion on school safety, we would like to respond to Mary Weigand’s blog post directed at “the protesting students and supportive administration” regarding the walkout. Mrs. Weigand is currently running for school board. We would also like to clarify and enlighten our community members on the events of the day. The following response does not reflect the views of the high school administration.

We, Olivia McClain (West senior), Lindsay Kramer (East junior), Jada Williams (West sophomore), and Alina Prahl (East senior), are the four students that approached our principals about our intent to organize and participate in the walkout. The timing and location of the walkout was appropriate because school shootings are a school issue. The administration neither encouraged nor discouraged student participation in the event. An announcement was made at 10 a.m. notifying those that wished to participate that they could leave class. There was no retribution for participating or remaining in class. Teachers continued instruction and students returned after seventeen minutes. For instance, I returned to my AP Biology class, copied the notes I missed from a friend, and jumped back into the lesson on genetics. In contrast to Mrs. Weigand’s claims, this wasn’t much more of a “disruption” than students leaving class to use the bathroom or go to a doctor’s appointment.

The walkout at the West Bend high schools was nonpolitical, simply a memorial for the victims of Parkland and myriad other school shootings, and a call for some sort of change. No matter your political beliefs, we can all agree that children and teachers shouldn’t fear for their lives while trying to get an education. At our school, approximately three hundred students formed a large circle on the field, listened to a reading of the seventeen victims’ names, and took seventeen minutes to honor those lives, to say “we are with you” to the families and communities that have been wrecked by mass shootings, to say “enough.” This was the purpose of our walkout. These were people just like us: athletes, volunteers, teachers, excited young freshmen just through their first semester of high school, and seniors eager to head off to college. They could’ve so easily been your children, your colleagues, your friends. This could have been our own tragedy.

The National Walkout saw a variety of manifestations, some boldly political. Ours was not. This renders many of Mrs. Weigand’s politically charged questions irrelevant.

Mrs. Weigand writes, “It seems to me that kids will be learning that if they don’t like something, then their reaction should be one of protest and throwing a fit.” The silence and peace of the walkout was anything but a fit. The respect demonstrated by those who did and did not participate was commendable. Mrs. Weigand may not be aware, but respect is one of the cornerstones of the West Bend School District’s mission. Regarding Mrs. Weigand’s question, “Have you taken the time to analyze the characteristics of mass shooters?,” we would like her to know that students participate in extensive examination of two killers in the non-fiction book “In Cold Blood” as part of the AP Language & Composition curriculum. Outside of class, “Columbine” by Dave Cullen is a great read. But we don’t claim to be experts and we hope Mrs. Weigand doesn’t either.

We are very thankful for our education, the work of our school district, and the financial support of our community. We have studied American history and the Constitution in depth and our teachers do their best to present information in an objective manner. This allows us to think independently and form our own decisions. School is not just a place to swallow and regurgitate curriculum. A quality education teaches us to pay attention to and think critically about the world around us. We learn that our actions carry consequence, that we have responsibilities as citizens, and that we all have the potential to make the world a better place. Our decisions and thoughts are our own. As far as Mrs. Weigand’s comment that “schools should not be places for creating little community organizers,” we suggest that patronizing the very people she wants to serve as a part of the school board may not be in her best interest.

We encourage you to vote for the candidates that will best promote an honest and objective education in our schools while respecting the separation of church and state. The spring general election will take place on April 3, 2018. Community members can register to vote via myvote.wi.gov.

Olivia McClain, Lindsay Kramer, Jada Williams and Alina Prahl

The Current welcomes submissions from all students, faculty, administration, and community members, but reserves the right to edit for length or content.  Any column, editorial, or letter to the editor expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the entire staff.

1 Comment

Filed under Community, School News and Features, Viewpoint

One response to “‘Our Thoughts Are Our Own’: Walkout Organizers Respond to School Board Candidate’s Criticisms

  1. Anonymous

    It’s a pretty scary situation when people in a position of power spread fake news and emotional responses instead of actual information, especially when it concerns kids and teenagers. This proves why voting is absolutely imperative and does make a difference.

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