HUDSON — High school students will both protest gun violence and offer a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, during the March 14 National School Walkout.
A forum on school safety issue will be that night.
Kelsey Lowman, senior at HHS and president of student government, said she and other student leaders at the high school have been in communication with school administrators about a peaceful protest regarding the school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The Feb. 14 shootings left 17 students and staff dead.
The protest/tribute is set start at 10 a.m. and last for 17 minutes.
"We are hoping we can get memorial stadium and form a heart on the field, and have our photo teacher take a drone picture," Kelsey said during a presentation on the students’ plans at the Board of Education’s Feb. 26 meeting. "Despite our young age, we will be heard and we will participate in our beliefs."
Kelsey, 17, Anna Berger, 17 and Cade Capper, 18, said the high school will continue with a theme of "What’s Your 17?" to promote unity and kindness.
"17 new things, 17 new smiles, 17 new friends, 17 new compliments," said Anna, ticking off some of the ideas that would be encouraged.
Cade said that there also will be large signs with the names of the 17 Parkland victims.
"We want people to look at these signs and know that the name, it belonged to a very real person, a person with hopes and dreams, who are no longer with us," Cade said. "It’s really atrocious that this happens in our country. Other countries look at us in horror and ask ‘how can this happen?’"
School violence and gun violence "is so normalized, it’s abhorrent," Kelsey said. "We have a drill each quarter in case someone wants to come into our schools to take our lives."
While administrators grapple with how to allow students a voice while respecting the wishes of all students, Kelsey said she felt empowered by the protests against gun violence taking place nationwide.
"My generation is done playing the political game," she said. "I’m turning 18 on Friday, and I will get to vote. If our political leaders can’t act to make us safe, they are done. Kids my age are empowered."
"That’s what the 17 minutes are for," Anna said. "This could easily be one of us."
Kelsey said she was grateful to the Hudson school administration for working with the students and not threatening to suspend them, "as some schools have done." She added she was heartened that several colleges have publicly stated that if a student were to be suspended for their participation it would not impact their admission.
High School Principal Brian Wilch said he appreciated "our student leaders' efforts to keep us informed and up to date on their plans to exercise their collective voice in support of school safety by honoring those who lost their lives on Valentine's Day in Florida."
"Our challenge is to respond to these types of protests by honoring students’ desire to express themselves on important issues in their lives while still ensuring that they are kept safe and supervised by school personnel," Wilch stated in a March 1 email.
Kelsey said during the school board meeting in response to a question on whether she felt safe is that "I want to say I feel safe," but that what happened at other school districts "can happen to anybody." The Columbine schools in Colorado and in Parkland "were ranked as the safest schools in the nation at one time."
However, Nick Hakes, senior class vice president, said he feels safe at Hudson High School.
"I know the teachers here are like my second family," Hakes said. He added that many safety measures, such as barricades and ladders to descend from the second floor, are in place.
Zack Carson, junior secretary, said at the meeting that school safety and current events are discussed in the classroom. Senior Anna Berger added that her teachers talked about what happened at Parkland and went over the school's safety plans to "make sure we were all on same page regarding safety."
Superintendent Phillip Herman said during the Board meeting that the district plans to form a Parent and Staff Safety Advisory committee, which will be made up of parents, staff, Board representatives, and administrators. This board would investigate safety plans and improvements for the district.
"We hold the safety of our students as our top priority," Herman said.
Straight Talk about School Safety
The district's forum on school safety, "Straight Talk about School Safety," will be in the high school media center starting at 7 p.m. March 14.
"This forum will provide the opportunity to share some of the existing safety practices within the Hudson City Schools and continue to maintain communications with our community about school safety," Herman stated in a message to parents on the district website. "The forum will be built around your concerns and topics you would like to have addressed."
Those wishing to participate in the forum are encouraged to fill out a short survey, which can be found on the district's website at www.hudson.k12.oh.us. Responses are requested by March 9. Questions on the form include "what are your most critical concerns" and "what topics would you like addressed."
"Following the Sandy Hook tragedy in 2012, Hudson School District hosted a community forum because it was important for us to share information about our safety plans and to hear from our community, parents, staff, and students," Herman said. "That forum lead to many of the safety improvements that have been implemented over the past five years. With the help of our parents, we are confident that the forum on March 14 will lead to meaningful conversation and action that will result in an even stronger safety plan for our students and staff."
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or ??@AprilKHelms_RPC??