Students participate in national movement

By on March 21, 2018
Students stood for 17 minutes, in memory of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. Photo by Jeremy Bischoff

Students stood for 17 minutes, in memory of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. Photo by Jeremy Bischoff

Ephrata Area School District students led efforts to participate in the National School Walkout at Ephrata High School and Middle School on Wednesday, March 14, from approximately 10 a.m. to 10:17 a.m., exactly one month after a deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

A group of Ephrata High School students, led by seniors Juelina Hildebrand and Grace Dalavai, began their planning a few weeks before the walkout. The group worked with District administrators to ensure all plans would be done in a way that was orderly and safe for all students who chose to be involved.

Several options were provided to high school students, including participation in a walkout to War Memorial Field, where students observed 17 minutes of silence in honor of those killed in the Parkland tragedy. Additional options were also available to students who did not want to leave the building but may have wanted to observe the moment of silence or not participate in any way.

“We wanted to do more than just walk, we want to make a difference,” said Grace Dalavai, who addressed the high school student body over the PA system with an “peaceful school safety” message on March 8. Her message included words from an inspirational Facebook post that challenged students to use 17-themed activities in a different way. Dalavai shared a portion of the message with students, “Smile at 17 people you normally wouldn’t smile at; say a kind word to 17 people who might not have someone to speak to; open up your heart to 17 people who might be hurting; offer friendship to 17 people who might have had none. Now that could change the climate of the school. Seventeen reasons for change. Seventeen reasons to make a difference. What’s your 17?”

Ephrata High School students gathered on the field on March 14, one month from the tragic Parkland shooting. Photos by Jeremy Bischoff

Ephrata High School students gathered on the field on March 14, one month from the tragic Parkland shooting. Photo by Jeremy Bischoff

At Ephrata Middle School, school leaders took an unbiased approach to students participating in the national walkout. “As a school, we were prepared to provide a safe environment for students if they asked to participate in the 17 minutes of silence. Additionally, we did not encourage or discourage any student involvement but made sure all efforts were done in the safest way possible,” said Mr. Kevin Deemer, Ephrata Middle School principal.

District administrators wanted to give students the freedom to participate in the national movement, yet maintain a safe and secure environment for all students and staff. Regular communication with the students who organized the events allowed administrators time to map-out high school staffing indoors and outdoors to supervise all students, maintain a secure environment, and ensure any brief interruption to the school day was a safe one.

EHS students organized and participated in the school walkout, one of many school’s across the country. Photo by Jeremy Bischoff

EHS students organized and participated in the school walkout, one of many school’s across the country. Photo by Jeremy Bischoff

“Our District objective throughout these efforts has been consistent – to give students the opportunity to participate in a national movement but in a safe way. The fact that media outlets have publicized details about events happening at schools throughout our region makes maintaining students’ safety all the more challenging,” said Dr. Brian Troop, District Superintendent.

“The Parkland, Florida, tragedy and the events that have followed serve as a reminder that school safety is a collective effort among all members of a school community. Additionally, the responsibility to provide a secure learning environment is at the foundation of our District mission, and student safety is our number one priority. By communicating all school safety concerns to our District administration, students, staff, and community members are helping us achieve a safe learning environment for all students,” Dr. Troop concluded.

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