This is the letter that was shared with parents on March 9, 2018 about the March 14, 2018 Walkout

March 9, 2018

Dear Brewster Families,

The nation continues to mourn for the students and staff in Parkland, Florida. Some of our high school students have been organizing how they want to participate in the March 14 Walkout.

We recognize their desire for civic engagement and intent to participate in this nationwide event. We further recognize that the New York State Commissioner of Education, Dr. MaryEllen Elia, has encouraged educators to help students to find ways to express themselves and use this event as an opportunity to discuss with students how they can participate in government. At the same time, our students are applying critical thinking skills to real life situations, working with others to achieve a common goal, bringing a sense of courage to unfamiliar situations, promoting and contributing to civic life, and overcoming and learning from their mistakes. All of these are the skills outlined in our Strategic Coherence Plan and vital for success in this century.

At our February 27 Board of Education meeting, high school student leaders made a presentation about why they felt the need to participate in this 17 minute march. A number of parents who attended the meeting shared their concerns and thoughts about the march and we thank them for coming. As one parent stated, “every parent who came, came because they love their children and want them to be safe”. An attorney who represents the District also spoke about how the walkout is protected speech under the First Amendment, so long as it does not lead to a substantial disruption or threaten student safety, which would warrant disciplinary consequences. We have no reason to believe that this event will substantially disrupt school activities or create unsafe conditions. The student leaders who are organizing the March 14 Walkout have had a number of meetings with Ms. Horler to discuss how the event will be conducted safely and orderly. We are working closely with our School Resource Officers to ensure that there is additional assistance on March 14. These student leaders have approached their involvement thoughtfully and with no intention to provoke fear or cause harm to others.

The School Resource Officers at JFK Elementary School, CV Starr Intermediate School and HH Wells Middle School will remain in those buildings during the day. Sgt. Mike Szabo has arranged for additional law enforcement officers to be on hand at Brewster High School to assist Deputy Kraisky.

All teachers have been fully informed about the plans. If they are in their classrooms teaching when students at HH Wells and Brewster High School are permitted to leave, they will continue to provide instruction to the students who remain.

While the focus of the March 14 Walkout has been on Brewster High School, there is also a plan for HH Wells Middle School, JFK Elementary School and CV Starr Intermediate School.  

Below is the plan developed by student leaders at Brewster High School:

  • Only students at Brewster High School are allowed to participate.
  • This is a student event, so parents will not be permitted to attend.
  • Students who do not wish to participate in the walkout will stay in their regular classes. The teachers will continue to provide instruction.
  • Students who are walking out will sign up through the student generated sign up list.
  • Additional law enforcement officers will be outside during the walkout and will be assisting. They will limit access to the parking lots and restrict access to the track.
  • At 9:55am, an announcement will be made for students to leave the building through the front door only.
  • Students will line the inside of the track. At the track, 17 students will speak for a minute about one of the deceased students or staff members. These 17 will sit down in the center of the track. After 17 minutes, students will return to classes.
  • After the walkout, a group of students will host a convention in three separate locations in the high school. The purpose of the conventions would be to discuss civic responsibility, school violence and gun control. The student leaders are using social media to organize the speakers.

While there does not appear to be a great deal of interest among students at HH Wells to participate in the March 14 Walkout, provisions have been made in the event that students do choose to participate. They will not be allowed to leave the school. Below is the plan that was developed by administrators and teacher leaders at HH Wells:

Students who wish to participate will be allowed to leave their classroom and go to the auditorium. Students who are not participating will remain in class.

  • At 9:52, safety monitors and aides will be in the hallways to ensure that students travel to their classrooms or to the auditorium and do not exit the building.
  • Students will be seated in the auditorium for 17 minutes. Counselors, the social worker and psychologist will be on hand to speak with them if they wish. No program is planned. When the 17 minutes are over, they will return to class.

At the JFK Elementary School and CV Starr Intermediate School, parents are allowed to sign their children out if they wish to take them to participate in a manner of their choosing. This is the extent of what will be occurring at these two schools.

On March 19 at 7:00pm, we are having a presentation at HH Wells Middle School called Safety in Our Schools. The School Resource Officers, administrators and members of our School Health Emergency Preparedness Team will be on hand to answer questions about how we are working to ensure that our students and staff are safe. These are the people who can answer your questions and respond to your concerns. I hope that you can attend.

If you have specific questions about the March 14 Walkout plans described above, please contact the school principal. If I can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Warm regards,

Valerie Henning-Piedmonte, Superintendent 

Elaine Karczmit, President, Brewster Teachers’ Association