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By Erin Vander Weele

Sauk Prairie School Board members give input on student disorder policy


March 8, 2018

With the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida prompting student protests across the country, Sauk Prairie School District board members spoke about the district’s student disorder policy at the Feb. 26 regular meeting.

Board member Richard Judge reported there was a discussion during the Policies and Instruction Committee meeting on concerns about Sauk Prairie School District policies being “one size fits all,” as they relate to civil disobedience and student demonstrations of their opinions.

“I think there was a good discussion and I think where we came, rather than taking an official policy position was, the committee expressed a strong direction to the administrators and teaching staff in the district that we have maximum flexibility and latitude granted to students and that we understand that this is an emotional time,” Judge said.

“Students in many cases I think they fear for their lives and we have a tendency to think about that as a political statement,” Judge said. “It’s not really a political statement so much as it is a cry for help. I think they want us, adults, here, everywhere to figure this out so they don’t have to be scared out of their wits every time some kid makes an off-hand comment or see a kid who’s unhappy or a kid who is mean.”

It was not stated during the board meeting that there was any student demonstration currently planned. Board member Dennis Virta said he was prepared to bring a resolution on the topic to the Feb. 26 School board meeting, but decided to make a written statement instead and possibly bring a resolution to the next meeting.

Virta said as a School board member, he has deep concerns around the issue of school safety and how violence in public spaces affects the learning environments in classrooms.

“I have spoken with educators who see anxiety in their students and are concerned with how fear and anxiety are taking their toll in the classrooms,” he said.

“I’ve seen a tendency in the national conversation to curb speech of school faculty and staff and even of students on the basis that speech around the topic of gun violence is political speech and we must be careful not to campaign on behalf of a political issue,” he said. “Let’s not go there.”

Virta added, “As a School board, let us not be so narrow on our interpretation of policy 3231 (D), which states, ‘staff members shall not campaign on school property during duty hours on behalf of any political issue.’ When it comes to school safety and the safety of our children and staff, let there be conversation, let there be debate, let there be demonstration and may it all be vigorous.”

He added leniency should also be considered for administrative guideline 5520 regarding student disorder.

“An organized and peaceful walk out is not disorder, but it is orderly,” Virta said. “It does not have to be disruptive of the learning environment, but it certainly can become so, depending upon how we as adults supervising our children respond to that. Our students need to have a voice on issues, which mean life or death for them, and finding that voice is a huge part of the learning process and can actually enhance the learning environment.”

In conclusion, Virta encouraged engagement in conversation on the issue.

“This conversation does affect us, this conversation will have real results,” Virta said. “Let’s all be a part of it, let’s encourage it, and may it never be said that we acted to stifle it. Our learning environments and the lives and well-being of our children and staff depend upon it.”


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