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Students may face discipline for walkout
MARYSVILLE We are definitely looking at some consequences, said Assistant Superintendent Gail Miller in the wake of a walkout by about 150 to 200 students at Totem Middle School, March 5.
Starting at about 10:30 a.m., the students gathered in front of the building protesting what they say is a lack of discipline at the school. Many remained outside until about 12:30 p.m.
Those gathered talked about fighting and about supposedly open use of alcohol and drugs, particularly marijuana, on the campus. Several students further claimed those involved in drug and alcohol use received only minimal punishments from school authorities. They claimed to have presented school officials with a petition bearing more than 200 student signatures, all asking for greater discipline at the school.
In the course of the protest, some students were not shy about putting much of the blame for supposed problems on Totem Principal Judy Albertson.
Were supposed to respect her, but we might respect her more if she started enforcing the rules, said student Chelsea Harbo. We never see her except when were in trouble.
Chelsea added the protesters knew they well could end up penalized for their actions. We might get suspended, but we dont care, she said.
During the protest, students insisted they merely were taking advantage of their right to free speech.
We have a right to be out here, said student Kristine Precheim. We purposely are not cutting classes. Kristine claimed students were making use of their lunch periods.
Following the walkout, Albertsons office referred phone calls to Miller.
By several accounts, including those from school officials, the protest seemed well organized. Students said they met the night before at the Marysville library to cement final details. They used phone calls, text messaging and e-mails to help spread the word. Many protest leaders and other students wore T-shirts with the acronym DTV, for Dont Tolerate Violence.
We are trying to clarify what problems the kids are talking about looking into the legitimacy of the issues, Miller said, expressing concern some of the charges might be based on innuendo and rumor.
Miller added that to her knowledge there had been one incident this school year at Totem involving marijuana and alcohol and the student or students involved were suspended. Miller acknowledged an increase in fighting at the school throughout February, adding there was no real explanation as to why. Since noticing the problems, Miller said school officials made themselves more visible and tried to be proactive, intervening before situations got out of hand.
As for the protest, Miller said school officials got wind of student plans the day before the walkout. She said students were warned the morning of the event that they would face disciplinary actions, up to and including suspensions, if they took part.
Last week, Miller said students might be asked to come to school March 14, a day students were supposed to have off. The day was scheduled as a teacher-only in-service, or planning day, throughout the district. Those involved with the Totem incident may be told to attend school that day, taking part in focus or discussion groups on how to improve learning at Totem and elsewhere. If district officials decide to move forward with the plan, Miller said students who dont show up at the school March 14 would face more traditional suspensions.
The student protest did receive support from a few quarters. Marysville School Board of Directors member Darci Becker was at the school during the demonstration to support daughter, Hannah, one of the organizers.
Im proud of my daughter, Becker said. She added students have a right to be educated, that they were looking for civility in the classrooms.
Im very impressed with how organized they were, Becker said of the students.
Snohomish County Councilman John Koster expressed his support in a Letter to the Editor sent to The Marysville Globe. He could not be reached for further comment earlier this week.
The student walkout at Totem Middle School is breathtaking, Kosters letter reads in part. It challenges the imagination to picture 200 students demonstrating in support of increased discipline.
Miller insists there were other ways for students to voice their complaints.
It should have been handled differently, Miller said. We believe there could have been other successful avenues they could have taken.