High School Principals Group Helps Members Manage School Walkouts

The National Association of Secondary School Principals offers guidance to its members, who will be overseeing student walkouts scheduled to take place in March and April.

As students across the country advocate for stricter gun control in wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting and prepare to take part in the National School Walkout on March 14, principals are trying to keep these students safe while also protecting their right to free expression.

In order to help its members manage these dual concerns, the National Association of Secondary School Principals put together some guidance called “Considerations for Principals When Students are Planning an Organized Protest or Walkout.”

“When things like this happen, it’s incumbent upon folks like us in the association space to be listening very carefully and actively to what the needs of our members are,” said Bob Farrace, CAE, director of public affairs at NASSP.

After conversations with members and listening to the conversations amongst members, Farrace said it became clear that principals were struggling with how to deal with these planned walkout

“We have school leaders who are absolutely supportive of kids, but at the same time, recognize that we need to keep students safe, and frankly, we’re educators. We want kids to be in school where they’re participating in the educational program and where we can monitor them,” he said.

To develop these resources, NASSP convened a group of school leaders, while staff researched past protests to see what issues had emerged and examined guidelines on walkouts that already existed in certain districts. All of that information was then compiled into a set of guidance, which NASSP posted on its blog about a week after the shooting in Parkland.

“It’s designed to assert that kids have their first amendment rights and to assert, at the same time, that we need to keep kids safe,” Farrace said. “It’s not a matter of balancing the two because when you’re balancing, you’re compromising one or the other. We want to encourage principals to absolutely preserve both.”

According to NASSP, the guidelines have been largely well-received. In a matter of weeks, the association has seen about 10,000 visits on that page for an average of about five minutes or so, which Farrace calls a “new stratosphere” in terms of web traffic for NASSP.

“This emerged from us doing a lot of careful, thoughtful listening to the folks that we represent right after the event happened, so we understood what it is they needed, and we were able to deliver it quickly and expeditiously,” Farrace said.

A scene from a rally held after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. David Hogg, center, has emerged as a major advocate since the shooting. (Barry Stock/Flickr)

Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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