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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Properly conducted walkout would not be a disruption

In a Feb. 19 article in the Bemidji Pioneer titled “Walkout to protest gun violence canceled at BHS,” Superintendent Hess stated rationale for canceling the walkout was that “the need to address gun violence and school safety … does not give anyone the right to disrupt the educational setting. We do not support any type of disruption to a student’s education.”

We cannot think of any greater disruption to the educational setting than a mass murderer coming into the school to kill students and teachers. And we disagree that a properly conducted walkout would be a disruption. Rather, it is an educational opportunity. A walkout would be an important opportunity for BHS students to join their counterparts across the nation in solidarity for a cause that is equal to or more important than anything they will learn in the classroom.

According to the official website, The National School Walkout will take place on March 14 at 10 a.m. in each time zone. It calls for students, faculty, parents, and others to walk out of school for 17 minutes — one minute for each person who was killed in the Florida school shooting.

As an alternative to the 17-minute walkout, Superintendent Hess proposes that the issue of gun violence could be discussed in homerooms or pre-school meetings. Those are good steps, but they are not enough. Gun violence is a national issue that requires an open, public, national conversation.

We would ask Superintendent Hess to reconsider his decision to cancel the walkout. We would ask him to call on student leaders to work with teachers and administrators to create a plan that provides focus to their participation in the National School Walkout. This collaborative effort will make the 17-minute walkout on March 14 a learning experience in civic responsibility and involvement at the most fundamental level -- protecting lives against gun violence. Students should be encouraged to become activists for a cause that is critical to their own well-being. We can help them develop a sense of commitment to an important issue on a larger scale than can be achieved from limited, internal classroom discussions.

We all need to commit to solidarity at the national level. Allowing students and teachers to participate in the 17-minute March 14 walkout is one way to demonstrate our commitment to the discussion of gun reform to prevent more school shootings.

John and Julie Adams