March 14 walkouts

In response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, young people nationwide, including many New York City public school students, are planning to walk out of school for 17 minutes — one for every person killed — at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14 to protest the U.S. Congress’ inaction.

Many UFT members, proud that students are taking the lead, have asked the union about the day and their own roles. I wanted to share the recent guidance issued to principals by the city Department of Education.

Principals have been told that they should not stop students if they choose to participate in an action. The DOE guidance says students should not be disciplined for engaging in peaceful protest, but students are expected to continue to meet behavioral expectations and return to the school building after the action or walkout. The guidance says it is against DOE policy and conflicts of interest rules for DOE employees to participate, solicit participation, or lead students in the walkout in their official capacity. Each school has been instructed to design a plan by Monday and ask for volunteers among the staff to be assigned outside the building to ensure the safety of students during the activity.

The DOE guidance says that principals should communicate the plan and staff expectations to all school staff. Please ask your principal to tell you about your school’s plan.

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