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School Administrators in Concord Working with Students to Plan Walkout

Via Concord High School website

Students across the U.S. and around the Granite State are planning school walkouts calling for stronger gun control and school safety reform. This follows a national movement led by students of a high school in Parkland, Florida where a mass shooting took place last month.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Concord High School Principal Tom Sica about how he's working with his students who are organizing a walkout.

 (Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity)

Are you in support of students that would organize a walkout?

I am, Rick, and I'm particularly encouraged by the manner in which our students really have been addressing this. I was approached by some of our student leaders who asked me exactly what they would be able to do on the 14th and they came with, you know, really some ideas of their own--that they wanted to honor the nationwide walkout on Mar. 14, and in particular stand in solidarity with families across our nation to honor those 17 lives that were lost in this most recent school shooting. It's a 17 minute standing in solidarity with students families across our nation.

Students are saying they want to do this in memoriam. They're not going to be standing there and holding signs about gun control or gun rights. They're talking about a memorial here.

At this at this point in the development of Mar. 14, that is not a piece of what's in the planning. And again, we'll see as we're closer to that event how that shapes up, but I feel very confident in our students and the adults that are working with them.

But they really wanted to work with the administration on this?

Absolutely. When I speak to students, I heer a number of our kids speak about just that awakening within themselves of the issue that really our country is faced with that this time. One young lady--her first name is Rachel. Rachel very articulately said, you know I've been aware of gun violence in schools since I was a young person. And she actually grew up in Scotland where there has been some significant reforms years ago after a terrible shooting. But Rachel went on to say that in order for me to become an informed citizen I really need to educate myself on what the issues are, and she says and this most recent tragedy has really given me cause to stop and become more educated on this very topic. So I hear Rachel speak about that. But I hear other students really begin to look at their own citizenship and say you know for me to be an informed citizen, I need to read deeply. I need to understand what these issues are. It's not just a matter of jumping on the bandwagon and walking out of a class.

So you've been an educator for many years and you've seen changes. You've seen things come and go, but you feel that this is a sea change?

This has a different feel to it. There is a numbing that can happen when we're exposed to violence, and when I speak of that awakening I see that as a stepping aside from that. I heard students say things to the effect, Mr. Sica I've stood on the sidelines, and I've listened, and I've watched, and this most recent tragedy in Florida has really drawn me in in a way that I can say no other event in my life has had that impact.

It seems that you have taken a different approach than some schools have across the country with this issue where some students have said we're going to participate in a walkout. Some schools have said if you do, you'll be disciplined. You have decided to work with students and come up with a plan here. Why go with that? Why. Why take that tactic?

I see this as an issue that is integral to part of being a student in our world today, and we hope to engage students in becoming active citizens. And this is one of those opportunities that really provide them with that. We have an obligation to create that environment where students can exercise their voice in a responsible, respectful, and in a safe environment. And to me, this is one of those opportune times to allow students to do that.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.

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