NEW BRITAIN - Several area high schools are joining schools across the nation next week to honor the victims of February’s school shooting and stand together against school violence.
The date of National School Walkout Day, Tuesday, March 14, is exactly one month after the shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed by a former student. High schools in the area, in a variety of ways, plan to recognize last month’s attack and create a dialogue about violence in schools.
At New Britain High School, a brief walkout to protest school violence is planned for the day.
“We thought this could be a great opportunity for us to really kind of listen to our students, listen to what they have to say, listen to what their feelings are and work with them,” NBHS Assistant Principal Kerri-Lynn Major said at a Board of Education meeting earlier this week.
At 11 a.m., students will go to their scheduled classes, from which video will be streamed of NBHS students reading statements they wrote about school violence. Around 11:15 a.m., students and faculty will line up on Mill Street, march to South Main Street and then loop back to the school.
March 14 is a half-day for the school and the group is expected to return from the march around noon, the scheduled dismissal time. To keep the walkout focused and welcoming, the event will not be political, Major said.
“It’s not about guns. It’s about standing up against school violence in general and about promoting school safety in general,” she said.
“I think the biggest piece is they feel heard. I think that they feel they’re able to express their opinions, in conjunction with staff, in a positive way,” Major said.
“Students are really excited about this,” Ellie Lewicki, a student representative to the school board, told board members.
The city’s CREC Academy of Science and Innovation also has something planned for the day - students will participate in a program called “Dare to Care.”
Beginning at 7:45 a.m., students will learn about the history of democratic activism in the U.S. and learn about how they can contribute to causes they’re passionate about.
At 10 a.m., students and staff will participate in a memorial service at the school’s soccer field for those killed in Parkland. Members of the National Honor Society and members of the senior class will give speeches and talk about civic issues they care about.
“In wake of the recent event surrounding gun violence, mental health debates and various social justice movements, we thought it was important to give our students a platform to have safe, if difficult, conversations regarding these matters,” the school’s theme coach Lauren Amaturo said. “This is not a political stance, protest, rally. It’s an opportunity to teach these youth about civic engagement.”
Newington High School has scheduled an event of its own for March 14 aimed to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting and promote school safety.
At 7:34 a.m., students and staff who wish to attend will go to the gymnasium for a 17 minute moment of silence, one minute for each victim. Names and biographies of the victims will be read, and the NHS Chamber Choir will sing following the memorial.
“We would love for the community to stand with us in solidarity with the victims and their families,” said Jenna Scanlon, one of the organizers for the event.
Scanlon said organizers ask that all attendees wear black in mourning.
As for Berlin, school officials are working collaboratively with the student bodies at schools to provide alternative measures to walking out of school on March 14, Superintendent of Schools Brian Benigni said.
“We’re allowing students to express themselves without causing an unsafe environment,” he said.
Elementary school students can wear orange if they wish to express themselves during the day as an example, he said. Details on how students at the middle school and high school were still being finalized as of Thursday afternoon. All details of the events will be going home with students in a letter to parents on Friday, he added.
Benigni added he wasn’t aware of a mass walkout from the schools. If students do wish to express themselves in such a way, he said, there are school policies in place to deal with those situations.
Staff writer Charles Paullin contributed to this story.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.