Student walkout taught civics lesson
“Students walk out in plea for safety” [News, March 15] kicked Homer’s “The Odyssey” and Hamlet’s personal dilemmas to the curb. My curriculum ground to a halt. In 18 years as an English teacher at the Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School, I’ve never had such an urgent assignment for my students.
The day before, my school held a 17-minute combined memorial for those lost in Parkland, Florida, and a protest against gun violence in our nation’s schools. Six students spoke eloquently and passionately to fellow students, administrators and teachers. And with network news cameras rolling, students across the country spoke to Congress and parents to please do something to create sensible gun control.
The next day, in each of my five 40-minute classes, I asked kids to write how they felt about our school’s event, the Parkland shooting and gun control. No grade. No judgment. Don’t hold back. From the heart.
Some kids were indifferent, most energized, a few had tears, and one senior on her way to Tufts University thanked me for giving her time to vent freely and to reflect on her thoughts and her role in the adult world she will soon inhabit and help shape.
Joe Beck, Plainview
Newsday’s editorial board has shown a lack of critical thinking in “Students make a sensible plea” [Editorial, March 15]. I can excuse Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for his political and emotional outbursts, but I expect more of Newsday.
To properly understand the fundamental issue about this demonstration, each of us must cull out the politics, biases and emotions. As we expect of our children, we must employ intellectual rigor and objectivity. The fundamental question is, should a school district ratify a demonstration during school hours and on, or at least near, school grounds, if it is related to a political posture and interrupts the school day?
The answer should factor in discipline, security and the range of options otherwise available. On any given Saturday, or after school, the kids have a perfect right to demonstrate. But for a school district, as a matter of policy, to allow, or worse, encourage children to leave school and demonstrate, labels it as lacking what should be the apolitical nature of teaching and sends the wrong message. Breaking the rules is not a teachable moment.
Michael J. Butler, Greenport
Editor’s note: The author is a retired Nassau County police captain.
It’s disgraceful that some school districts chose to threaten students with punishment for participating in the walkout to demand action on school and gun violence.
Schools claim to prepare students for the world and their future, but when students want to exercise their voices they are threatened into silence.
It was 17 minutes. What 17-minute workbook exercise is more important than students crying out for their lives and those of their classmates?
Alan M. Weber, Medford
Editor’s note: The writer is a teacher educator at Suffolk County Community College.
The Rocky Point school administration felt the need to punish students for their act of peaceful civil disobedience consisting of temporary suspension from attending extra curricular school activities, such as participation in athletics or clubs, in addition to in-school suspension.
As a retired teacher, I have no problem with a school official issuing consequences for a student’s actions when it’s warranted. However, these students weren’t posting threats on social media, bringing weapons into the school or trying to sell drugs on school property.
It’s disheartening that this administration chose to punish, rather than encourage, such civic-minded actions.
Debbie Johnston, Centereach
I’m a junior at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School. Last week, my school held a memorial in honor of those who lost their lives at the Parkland school shooting. While admirable, a memorial alone is not enough.
We should raise the minimum age necessary to possess a gun, should require psychological tests to be administered when someone attempts to purchase a gun, and every year we should implement obligatory checkups to ensure the owner is still fit to possess a firearm. Bump stocks should be permanently outlawed throughout the United States.
The nationwide Parkland student movement is intended to send a message to Congress that the progressive youth of America do not support the National Rifle Association.
Tyler Goldstein, Plainview
Many departures from Trump staff
Congratulations to President Donald Trump for fulfilling his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Little did the American people realize that he was talking about the swamp that he himself stocked [“Tillerson out, Pompeo in,” News, March 14].
His hand-picked top administrative staff continue to leave the White House. Trump’s policies, demeanor, leadership style and inability to accept different opinions are among the reasons.
Tom Gilroy, Melville