SK students in high, middle schools participate in walkout

Students across the nation walked away from their classrooms in unity at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes.

PORT ORCHARD — A walkout at schools across the nation March 14 to honor the lives lost in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month also impacted school buildings in Kitsap County — including South Kitsap High School.

Students, faculty and staff members of schools across the nation walked away from their classrooms and offices in unity at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes.

The walkout’s intent also was to provide a forum for participants to express their desire for Congress to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks before gun sales and pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.

Students at other Kitsap schools also participated.

Prior to the walkout, the principals at South Kitsap secondary schools sent out a joint press release addressing the walkout. The principals are Diane Fox of South Kitsap High School; Pat Oster of Discovery Alternative High School; Andrew Cain of Cedar Heights Middle School; Dan Novick of John Sedgwick Middle School; and Brian Carlson of Marcus Whitman Middle School.

“Advocating for an issue can be a powerful learning experience,” the principals stated in the release.

“It is also a good lesson in democracy and the right to have a voice in government. A large number of students in some of our neighboring districts walked out (recently) and held demonstrations … we acknowledge that only some of our students may participate in future events, while others may choose not to be involved.

“We want to ensure all students feel safe and respected no matter what they choose to do. We ask that student groups work with their building principals out of respect to their fellow classmates, school staff and the educational process.

“In the event that a student does choose to walk out, teaching and learning will continue and classes will operate on normal schedule.”

They added that students who were late or missed class would be marked as tardy or absent, according to school policy, regardless of participation in the walkout.

The SKHS students have a Facebook group called “We the People of SKHS,” in which they discuss issues such as this walkout.

One commenter wrote: “The whole point of the protest and a walkout is to support the cause even in the face of retaliation. That includes the school and home. Unions in every industry do it all the time and it does disrupt things. That’s what gets the people in power to jump up and make change happen. Every movement ever in history that brought about huge change had people … trying to put it down. It’s how change happens. It’s why women can vote and why we have made so much progress in civil rights.

“Making those adults in charge feel uncomfortable is exactly why they will finally do something. In 10 years from now, you absolutely won’t regret being part of this. In fact, you may be embarrassed you sat it out.”

Cedar Heights Middle School threats

A letter from the Cedar Heights Middle School principal was shared on the Port Orchard group Facebook page Feb. 16, informing families of “rumors related to potential harm” that will allegedly take place March 14.

On Feb. 26, Cain sent an update to school families.

“The Cedar Heights administrative team investigated the rumors and shared our findings with South Kitsap Security Personnel and the Port Orchard Police. They determined the threat was not credible following a thorough review of information and threat assessment.”

Cain said that throughout March 14, there was an increased presence of law enforcement and security personnel to ensure the safety of staff and students.

“In addition, there will be heightened staff awareness before school, during passing time, lunches and after school,” Cain wrote before the protest.

The South Kitsap School District urges students and parents to continue to share information with school administrators and use the online Tip Line available at www.skschools.org/district/tip_line.

— Editor Bob Smith contributed to this article.

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