Parents of Missoula County public school students who plan to ‘walk out’ of school this week to show solidarity with students and teachers at a Florida school that was the site of a mass shooting last month now have guidance from the district on how Missoula schools will handle the expected protest. In a posting sent last week to parents (see below), Superintendant Mark Thane said high school students who walk out must have a parent’s permission or face an unexcused absence. Middle and grade school parents and guardians must personally sign their children out – no grade or middle schools will allow younger students to leave without an adult. There are national protests planned on both Wednesday, March 14th and Tuesday, March 20th.
Missoula County Public Schools is aware of the national and local conversation about planned walkouts on March 14th and April 20th. We would like to provide students and their families factual information to guide their decisions around participation in these events.
Our district is not sanctioning any events surrounding these planned walkouts, these are all organized by students, parents and community members. That said, it may be possible that students discuss the walkouts in the normal course of classroom conversation on current events or in connection with other elements of district curriculum.
Our district has no plans to resist students or their families from participating in walkouts or related events. Our first priority is to create safe learning spaces for our students.
With that in mind, we will follow existing school-based procedures for reporting and managing absences.
High school students who choose to leave campus on their own must be excused by parents in order to participate.Students who are not excused by parents will be marked absent and the school will follow normal procedures for unexcused absences – this may include detention.
Elementary and Middle school students must be signed out by a parent or an approved guardian. These students will not be allowed to leave campus without consent and the presence of a parent or approved guardian. In instances where elementary and middle school students leave campus without a parent or approved guardian, we will immediately call the parents to report the student’s absence and attempt to locate the student. This is in accordance with our current attendance and safety protocols for young students.
Students who miss class due to an excused absence will be afforded the opportunity to make up work in accordance with our absence procedures.
In the event of a walkout, school administrators and/or members of the Missoula Police Department may be present to observe that students are safe and are not violating school policy or the law. School personnel and school resource officers will not be there to endorse either side of the issue – their only role will be to ensure safety during these student-led walkouts.
We are asking students who choose to participate to conduct themselves with respect, responsibility, and to adhere to school policies and the law. Thank you for your help in sharing these expectations with your student(s).
We are committed to working together with student and community leaders to support the exercise of First Amendment rights. We realize that our primary responsibility is to provide a safe and productive learning environment and our schools will all function on a normal schedule.
Mark Thane, Superintendent
Melanie Charlson, President, Missoula Education Association
Sheri Postma, President, Merged Missoula Classified Employees Organization