(BIVN) – Hawai‘i Island joined the nation-wide school walkout on March 14, part of a student-led demonstration against school violence.
Walkouts, like the one at Kea‘au High School, were to last 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost in the recent Florida high school massacre. The Hawai‘i Department of Education was prepared for the event, and sent out a notification to parents beforehand.
“In anticipation of a planned walkout or gathering during school hours, we have advised schools to consider creating a designated walk-out area and encourage students to use the time to share ideas for improving campus safety, security and culture,” wrote Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto. “HIDOE supports students’ Constitutional rights to a peaceful assembly and free expression. Disorderly conduct that disrupts school operations is not acceptable and will be appropriately handled in accordance with the Code of Student Conduct. Students who leave school will be marked with an unexcused tardiness or absence. Participation in an organized walkout is voluntary.”
“What we hope to gain from these experiences are student voices that help to shape how we can better design schools with safety in mind,” Kishimoto added. “I encourage you to speak to your child about their thoughts on this nationwide movement and if they choose to participate in a walkout activity. Our goal in responding to walkout plans and other forms of peaceful assembly is to support student and staff safety and keep the focus on teaching and learning.”
A few citizens, like Jim Albertini of the Malu ‘Aina Center for Non-violent Education & Action, stood outside the school fence in support of the student protest.
Meanwhile, Hawai‘i Island’s Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D) took to the House Floor in Washington today, to speak in support of the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act, or H.R. 4909.
According to Gabbard, whom co-sponsored the federal legislation:
The bill authorizes federal funding for 1) increased investment in training students, teachers, other school personnel, and local law enforcement officers on how to identify warning signs of potential violence at a school and how to intervene to prevent people from hurting themselves or others; 2) better coordination between schools and local law enforcement; and 3) school security measures, including use of metal detectors, locks, lighting and other deterrent measures at schools, security assessments of schools, and security training of school personnel and students. This funding may not be used for arming teachers and school personnel, or training in the use of a firearm.
“This bill or any other single bill is not going to solve everything,” Rep. Gabbard stated, “but it will help prevent school violence by implementing measures developed after Sandy Hook that supports training for teachers, students, school personnel, and local law enforcement to better identify early warning signs of violence and increases coordination between schools and local law enforcement.”
“In addition, we also need to take action on things like closing the gun show and online loopholes and requiring universal background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a gun,” Gabbard added. “These are provisions that have overwhelming bipartisan support both here in Congress and across the country. The time for action is long overdue. Let’s bring these bills to the floor for a vote.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Faces of students in photos have been obscured.