Princeton superintendent of schools issues statement about March 14 student walkouts

The superintendent for the Princeton Public Schools issued a statement Friday addressing how the district will handle the March 14 student walkouts that are planned to voice opposition to gun violence.

At Princeton High School, students and staff can participate in the peaceful walkout that students are planning, Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane said. Following the 17-minute walkout, students will have an hour for related service activities, including advocacy, voter registration, class discussions and other student-generated activities, he said.

At John Witherspoon Middle School, students and staff can show their support and solidarity for the Parkland community by joining together for a 17-minute walk. Plans are still being shaped in consultation with student leaders, and additional activities may be included, Cochrane said.

Students at both schools who choose not to participate in the walkout or service projects can read, reflect or study independently, Cochrane said.

“Preparing students to be engaged, active, and thoughtful citizens is arguably one of the most important functions of a public school. We support our students who are standing in solidarity with the students from Parkland and others across the nation as they participate in the school walkout planned for March 14,” reads the statement. “These students are advocating for their safety and the safety of their peers nationwide as they elevate the conversation about school shootings. We are proud to be working with our students as they develop plans for peaceable assembly and meaningful activities on this day.”

No plans have been made for the elementary schools.

“We recognize that the adults at our elementary schools and some of our students at those schools have been deeply affected by the events in Parkland. We recognize as well, however, that not all of our elementary school students are developmentally ready for a discussion of school violence or gun control,” Cochrane said in the statement. “We want to be sensitive to the developmental readiness of our youngest learners and also respect those parents who have deliberately protected their young children from such discussions. For those reasons, we have not planned any school-wide events at our elementary schools on March 14.  Teachers may work with their principals to develop age-appropriate, classroom-based activities for that day designed to foster a greater sense of empathy, compassion, personal empowerment and social action.  These activities may differ school to school and class to class.”

For safety reasons, the events and activities planned at the middle school and high school are for students and staff only. Roads will be closed around the middle school and high school between 9:45 and 10:45 a.m. on the morning of March 14., and police will be stationed at the schools.

“We wish to thank our students for their engagement in such an important issue that directly affects them and their peers,” Cochrane said. “The safety of students must be prioritized and not politicized. We are proud of our students, and the students across the nation, who are taking action and setting an example for the rest of us to follow.”