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Statement from the Interim Superintendent on Planned Student Walkouts

March 12th, 2018

Dear families,

In response to recent tragedies in our nation’s schools, many students are planning to participate in national walkouts or other awareness events. This Wednesday, a national effort is underway for students to walk out of classes at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to remember the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and discuss gun violence.

While school system staff are not aware of every event planned in our schools on March 14, we know that many students are angry or fearful as a result of the recent school shooting and want to find ways to lift their voice and create positive change. As a system, we are going to great lengths to ensure that students are able to accomplish this in a positive manner while adhering to system policies and ensuring a safe environment. The HCPSS Office of Safety and Security has a robust plan in place to address any security needs that may arise during these events and school staff will ensure that all students are supervised. School administrators have received guidance and support to proactively respond to the needs of students who may wish to participate in planned events and those who do not. While we do not plan to prohibit student participation in activities that are conducted in a safe and responsible manner, we do expect all students to remain on campus and follow system policies and student expectations. Students who choose to leave campus will be considered an unexcused absence.

Being responsive to the needs of our students goes beyond the facilitation of a safe, student-led awareness activity. It requires action on the part of the school system along with our community partners and community members. I was encouraged by the collaboration from our county partners and participation from members of the community who attended the February 27 forum on school safety and mental health.

The response of the Howard County Public School System is ongoing and is one that will stay at the forefront of my decision making moving forward. Work is already underway to enhance physical school security, establish stronger policies and training around active shooter response, increase mental health supports for students, and cultivate greater collaboration between the school system and the community.

Please take advantage of the resources available to speak with your children about traumatic events and encourage them to access student services or speak to a trusted adult in their school. I want to assure you that the school system holds the physical safety and social-emotional well-being of students and staff as its highest priority.

Thank you for your participation and involvement on such an important matter.

Michael J. Martirano
Interim Superintendent