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Posted March 2, 2018

Helping Students Find Their Voice

"We want our students to feel like they have a voice, but we also want them to be safe and in school when they're supposed to be. If we can come up with solutions that allow us to do both, we will all benefit," Supt. Reedy writes in her weekly message.

Dear APS Students, Staff and Families:

There has been a lot of talk lately of planned protests and walkouts in response to the school shooting in Florida. We know of two planned national events:

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, the National School Walkout is calling for students to walk out of class for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims killed during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., last month.

At 10 a.m. on Friday, April 20, which is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School mass shooting, students across the country are being encouraged to participate in the #NationalSchoolWalkout.

I am making you aware of these events because I want you to be informed. I also want you to be aware of our expectations for students and staff. Our top priority in Albuquerque Public Schools is to support the academic, social and emotional needs of our students while maintaining a safe and orderly learning environment for all.

As educators, we recognize that age-appropriate student activism is a part of the learning process. When students are passionate about an issue, they have an opportunity to connect curriculum to real life. Demonstrations can play an important role in this learning process, and we certainly respect your right to express yourself. However, we want you to do so in a way that doesn’t interrupt the educational day, that takes into consideration the different sides of the debate, and –  most importantly – that keeps you and others safe.

That is why we are encouraging student leaders to begin a conversation with their teachers, counselors and school administrators about alternative demonstrations that will enhance learning rather than disrupt class. Some suggestions include before and after school protests, lunchtime or weekend rallies, letter-writing or social media campaigns, debates or petition drives. La Cueva High School hosted a Remembrance Rally on campus during lunch shortly after the Florida shooting. And students leaders from the Zone 2 high schools gathered last night at West Mesa for a forum on how to keep schools safe. I commend these students for expressing themselves in ways that are both educational and safe. 

We also need to make sure that we keep in mind the age of our students. Rallies and protests probably aren't appropriate for our elementary school children. Maybe for them, schools provide an extra 17-minutes of playtime in honor of the shooting victims and in celebration of the innocence of childhood.

We can't stress enough how important it is to keep our students safe, which is why disorderly conduct that disrupts school operations is not acceptable and could result in discipline. 

We encourage you to talk to your child about how they may be feeling about school safety and the importance of expressing themselves in appropriate ways at school. We understand that some of them may be feeling lots of emotions, including anxiety, fear and even anger. Don’t hesitate to turn to the school for help. Our counselors, as well as teachers and administrators, are available to lend a helping hand.

As educators, we need to be mindful of the multiple perspectives on an issue and respectful of all sides. While we shouldn't lead student efforts, we certainly can guide and encourage them to think deeply about the issues. We also need to be supportive of students who don’t want to get involved, who may not wish to voice an opinion. 

Bottomline: We want our students to feel like they have a voice, but we also want them to be safe and in school when they're supposed to be. If we can come up with solutions that allow us to do both, we will all benefit.

These have been trying times for our community and our country. I am blessed to serve such a compassionate school district. I care so much about our students and am grateful for our staff and families. Take care of yourselves and of each other. 


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