Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Inauguration Day Protests in SPS; What To Know

Apparently there is a move among middle/high school students in Seattle schools to walk out in protest during the presidential inauguration this Friday, the 20th of January.

From SPS:
Dear Seattle Public Schools families,

We have heard from some principals and through social media channels that our middle and high school students may choose to participate in a planned walkout on Inauguration Day, Friday, January 20. This call to action is not endorsed or sanctioned by the school district. The “National Student Walkout Against Trump” has been organized by a group called Socialist Students.

In November, ten thousand of our students safely walked out of school in response to the presidential election results. The district supports students’ rights to express their views in a peaceful manner. However, when civic engagement includes missing class, there are appropriate and standardized consequences. Students should understand that if they choose to participate in the January 20 walkout, they will receive an unexcused absence per board policy.

Board Policy 3121 (pdf)
Superintendent Procedure 3121 (pdf)

Following an unexcused absence, students do not have the right to make up school work. Any make up is at the discretion of the principal and classroom teacher. The opportunity to make up work will depend on the course syllabus and other factors. If students do choose to walk out, you will receive a notice from the individual school. At this time, it is hard to predict how many schools and students will participate, if any.

Educators and other school staff have been asked to remain at school. Staff participation in the January 20 walkout, for reasons other than ensuring the safety of our students, will be treated as a personnel matter.

Finally, any time we know of a planned walkout, the district’s Safety and Security department works very closely with the Seattle Police Department (SPD). We are already in contact with SPD regarding this potential event.

In closing, if you have questions or concerns regarding the potential January 20 walkout you can send them to publicaffairs@seattleschools.org or direct them to your child’s school principal.
There is now a petition, started by Seattle City Council member, Kshama Sawant, against the district's action.  From her blog:
Earlier today, Seattle Public Schools’ Office of Public Affairs sent out the following email, in which they threaten disciplinary action in the form of unexcused absences against students who plan to participate in Inauguration Day walkouts. The letter’s implication that Seattle Public Schools will coordinate with the Seattle Police is highly troubling.
I stand with the students, and call on SPS to retract its statement. SPS needs to recognize these protests as legitimate actions in defense of the rights of students, their families, and fellow community members who are directly threatened by President-Elect Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, misogynistic, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-worker agenda. Furthermore, Seattle is a sanctuary city, and we have to uphold the right of everyone to peaceful protest and assembly.
As well, you may recall that Seattle has declared itself a "sanctuary city" and has allotted $250,000 towards protecting undocumented residents. 
On Thursday, November 24, Mayor Ed Murray signed an Executive Order reaffirming Seattle as a Welcoming City. The order states that City employees will not ask about the status of residents and all City services will be available to all residents, and it creates an Inclusive and Equitable City Cabinet that will coordinate City efforts to protect the civil liberties and civil rights of Seattle residents. Additionally, the City will set aside $250,000 to address the needs of unauthorized immigrant students enrolled in Seattle Public Schools and their families.
There is a also a call by some for Seattle Public Schools to be a sanctuary district like Portland Public Schools.  (I have a call into SPS Communications on if Seattle Schools is considering this.)
The resolution blocks immigration officials from entering schools or accessing student records without first working through top district officials.

The first resolution item reads: “Any ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] Officer intending to enter any Portland Public Schools property must first notify the Superintendent and the District’s General Counsel, in person, of its intention, with adequate notice so that the Superintendent and General Counsel can take steps to provide for the emotional and physical safety of its students and staff.”


Anonymous said...

I was glad that SPS notified parents, released a statement about actually following policy (teachers still have leeway in allowing students in making up work), and provided some assurance that police would provide some added protection on that day.


Po3 said...

My students have been told to stay in school and if they what to participate in any activism, they will join the Womxn's March on Sat. I supported the post-election walkout, but now feel it is time for students to commit to community activism beyond a walk out. Examples I have given my children are to help get candidates elected; volunteer with an organization helping immigrants; make phone calls to representatives in WA, sign petitions. Would love to see students organize activism in their schools instead of walking out and really wish Kshama Sawant would spend her time mobilizing students beyond the walk out.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I know a lot of people walking in Saturday's march (including me) and I would love to see the students there.

Anonymous said...

Agreed parent. I think the district letter regarding walkouts is completely appropriate and responsible. Sawant seems to be searching for a fight where there doesn't need to be one. The district is essentially supporting the walkout and informing the kids of their rights and the potential slap on the wrist. The unexcused absence piece is actually empowering to the marchers in my opinion because civil disobedience that lacks any form of consequence is meaningless.

I am also glad there is coordination with the police to help shepherd our young activists safely to their destination.

Outsider said...

Rather than walk out yet again, maybe SPS students should have a teach-in. And not just a 43rd repeat of the Trump is evil thing, but a teach-in about something they actually don't know. (Tons to choose from !!) I would suggest studying the recent political history of Thailand:

A populist party originally called Thai Rak Thai, then Peoples' Power Party, and most recently Phak Phuea Thai was founded in 1998 and kept popping up under new names after being banned by the judiciary. It also kept winning elections with support mostly from the northern countryside. The last 20 years have seen continuous political chaos, with two military coups and bloody street battles between yellow shirts and red shirts that paralyzed the capital for months at a time. Essentially the Bangkok elites and urban middle class have refused to accept elected governments of the TRT/PPP/PPT. Thailand is under military rule right now, after a PPT government elected in 2011 was removed by the military in 2013.

Coming soon to a country near you. SPS should teach students something that prepares them for their future, which might not be like their past.

Anonymous said...

This is all fine so long as students can walk out on Sawants re-election. Seriously, its time to get over it. Our elementary school just sent out a notice that the Inauguration would not be shown to the students, unless they choose to watch it. This is a historical, democratic process that all Americans should recognize as significant, whether we voted for this person or not. I don't appreciate the school principal choosing to watch the last 5 ceremonies (since "93 and skipped '13 since it was a Sunday) but now choosing not to allow this one. Political viewpoints shouldn't drive education, events should. I didn't vote for the man, but I believe in the process, and yes, people have the right to protest yada-yada-yada. But this smells of the fear mongers running the process. All walk outs should be treated equally.

WS Dad

Watching said...

I certainly support free speech and the right to protest.

However, I do support the district's position. The district should not put themselves to excuse some protests and exclude others.

Watching said...

As I understand it, police are being used to protect students.

Anonymous said...

Who's going to protect the police...black lives matter.


Michael Rice said...

I teach AP Statistics first period (school starts at 8:45). I asked the class (mostly Seniors) if they wanted to watch the inauguration on Friday. They were unanimous in their desire to watch. I will have a few problems for them to do, but I will be showing it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Michael, thank you for asking your students what they want. I am absolutely not going to watch or listen to it but I do think it may be pretty funny so at least entertaining for the kids.

As Tom Hanks said on Wait,Wait, Don't Tell Me this past weekend, "There will be three former presidents in attendance and the rest are rolling in their graves."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Michael, tell the kids my money is on Trump wearing a tall top hat and Melania wearing a fur.

Anonymous said...

Wow. You'd have thought Trump had committed genocide, drowned puppies or cut off the heads of cats. He hasn't dropped any bombs on countries AFAIK.

WS dad

dj said...

One of my kids walked out in November, and I was fully supportive. I am encouraging that child not to walk out this time and to go to the march Saturday, as well as to get involved registering fellow students to vote. I am in general fully in favor of protests. I do agree that the impact of a walkout has been achieved, and it is time now to focus efforts on other actions. I'm not grounding my kid for disagreement, however, and I am glad the district isn't taking a hard line if my kid ignores my advice.

Melissa Westbrook said...

WS, he has managed to insult/degrade Muslims, Mexicans, disabled, LGBT and women. Wait for it.

I give him a year to 18 months in the job before he exits on his own or is forced out.

Robert Cruickshank said...

I cannot support the district's position here. Many SPS students will be directly targeted by Trump, as will SPS itself (as today's Betsy DeVos hearings made clear). SPS should be supporting and protecting those students from harm and retribution. The district's message fails to meet that standard and thus it is inappropriate, especially considering the gravity of the threat that we will face from the White House starting on Friday.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Melissa, I have tons of respect for what you do for our kids here. But stop for moment and take a look at the real terrorists in the world. Boko Harem. ISIS. Mexican Cartels. Philippine vigilantes. There is much, much, much more going on than Donald Trump. I believe that its more about the upset of Hillary in the election, and once that is past, we can all work together to keep our government in check. We have a great nation, and should respect the process, for it is what grants us our freedoms. I find it sad we can't recognize that over the sake of protesting at will.

WS Dad

Anonymous said...

It's not about the upset of Hillary in the election. It's about Donald Trump. He's a disgusting person. We are ashamed that he's representing us to the rest of the world.

WS Too

Anonymous said...

I can't respect the process when Russian and the FBI head were allowed to meddle with the election. I think Trump will be impeached by the Republicans within two years so they can install Mike Pence in the office. Trump is an embarrassment with more scandals in two weeks than Obama had over 8 years.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I find myself in the rare position of thinking that the district is managing this just about perfectly. They should not be getting in the business of deciding what political causes they should be endorsing. Nor should they pretend to have the authority or desire to restrict a students' free speech right to engage in a protest. And if thousands of kids are going to march out of school, the police should be given a heads up so they can help keep them safe. Like a said, its a rare moment where SPS is doing the correct, common sense thing. - Spade

Melissa Westbrook said...

WS Dad,
1) I didn't say I support a walkout. I'm with Spade.
2) the constitution gives us the right "to protest at will."

HP, that's my thought exactly.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone else a little fearful for their child out and about in the midst of these mass protests on inauguration day? I was fully supportive of her joining the first protest back in November, and believe it was an important experience for her (and all of them). However, just wondering about the wisdom of allowing all these kids, with emotions running so high, out and about on that day. IMO I think it's great that SPS has asked the police to help them march safely. But still. Just wondering if that might be a good day to quietly protest in other ways, or join the Womxn's March on Saturday.


Anonymous said...

"WS, he has managed to insult/degrade Muslims, Mexicans, disabled, LGBT and women. Wait for it.

I give him a year to 18 months in the job before he exits on his own or is forced out.'

And President Obama ordered extra-judicial executions of American citizens via drone strikes, and is complicit in actual genocide occurring in Yemen through support of the Saudis.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Rose, I didn't say Obama was perfect. I have been deeply disappointed in his initiatives for public education and I am very unhappy with what he allowed to happen in Syria.

But I wasn't talking about performance or foreign policy. I"m talking about how an incoming president has talked about more than half the citizens of this country.

Anonymous said...

Since it is the fault of all of us adults that Hair Dump is becoming president, WE should be out there on Friday. WE had the time and money to go out and campaign, to even just counter-troll on the inter-webs, WE are responsible for this disaster, we've put our kids in the cross-hairs of hate.

I'm going to go to my kid's schools. drop off some donuts or bagels, and march with any kids who go out.

People Power

Honestly said...


What is your policy in relation to protests and excused absences. Would you support excused absences for all walk-outs- or just the ones that you are in political agreement with?

How do you feel about Trump supporters within Seattle Public Schools?

Honestly said...

We're not talking about policies, Robert- not positions. Honestly.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Honestly, what would be the problem with Trump-supporters working in SPS? I certainly wouldn't care (as long as they don't talk about people the way he does.)

Anonymous said...

I think that Sawant operates on a model that is very similar to conservative talk radio hosts. That is, they need to always be riding a wave of publicity and discussion created by their own provocative positions. It doesn't matter if their declarations are rational or honest, it only matters that they get people fired up and talking about the people (Sawant, Rush Limbaugh, etc) who stated them because that is the lifeblood they suckle off. Most of the time it only furthers their own careers at the cost of demeaning the discourse.
- Spade

ck said...

People power-I love your idea! I'm going to do that tomorrow also!! donuts for walkers!

I think the district did what they had to and that they are handling it well-it is a pretty minor hand slap to simply be "unexcused". I also agree Sawant is out for publicity, and her hard-left tactics simply serve to alienate rational moderates of both sides. The only way our country will come together is to get the obstructionist hard liners out, on both sides. Both parties/ the extreme partisans are playing us against each other to their benefit.

I'd never wish a kid or young adult to get injured or worse, particularly my own. However, if marchers at Selma had let this fear control their actions, there would have been no Selma. It's time to fight back against the extremism that Trump brings, hopefully in a peaceful manner, and stop being sheep-playing nice is part of what got us Trump. Young adults have a right to make that decision themselves. That said, protesting alone without genuine engagement with our reps and the political process and voting!, won't get us anywhere...

Let the kids watch the inauguration, IMO. Shutting out enemy noise doesn't make the enemy go away. Knowledge is power. And most of us would be up in arms about a teacher refusing to show kids a democrat's inauguration-it's censorship either way. A premise of successful battle is "know thy enemy".

Hey does anyone know how many school kids in WY have had to fend off grizzly attacks at school? DeVos cited this reason to legitimize guns at schools. I've sent an email to a WY Senator to ask him about it, but (shockingly!) haven't heard back yet.

ck said...

and, ws dad, Trump has expressed admiration for that "Philippine vigilante" you cited, which is chilling

Honestly said...

There is no problem with Trump supporters in SPS. I am merely suggesting that our district is a mix of individuals with political views.

Honestly said...

- parent makes a good point. IMO, 12-15 year olds are not completely grown-up. I meant to say that the district deals with policies- not positions, Robert.

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