Many high school -- and even middle school -- students made their own decision about whether or not to participate in the National School Walkout.
But most elementary school students are blissfully unaware of the latest school shooting, and emotionally unprepared or uninterested in learning anything about it. And many parents want to shelter their young children from the horrors of Parkland.
That’s why the Poway Unified School District gave elementary school parents the power to decide what, if anything, their children should do on National School Walkout day.
The principal at Pomerado Elementary, one of the district’s 26 primary schools, sent a message to parents and guardians, acknowledging that “a great majority of our students may not know about the Parkland incident and the nationally scheduled Walkout. However, we do have some students who may want to participate, and we want to support them, while minimizing the exposure to other students who either don’t know… and/or don’t want to participate.”
At Pomerado and the district’s other elementary schools, there was a school-wide recess at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Parents whose children wanted to honor the Parkland dead, to discuss school safety or other issues, could – with their parent’s permission – talk with the school principal during that recess.
Other students in the Pre-K to 5th-grade schools would play games, or talk about caring and sharing and proper responses to bullying, in a setting that avoided any mention of Parkland.
At Sundance Elementary in Rancho Penasquitos, Principal Bob Rodrigo said he talked with three students about Parkland. The school has 450 students. Rodrigo said one of the students he talked with mistakenly thought the Parkland shooter was an elementary school student, like himself. Rodrigo said he was glad for the opportunity to explain to the child that “it was a young adult, not a child, who purchased that gun. So that was enlightening for him, and it was good that we had the opportunity to talk.”
Kimberlie Rens, who helps run the district’s Learning Support Services department, said much research was done to organize a sensitive, thoughtful program that empowered parents to talk with their children, and decide what they wanted to do during the 10 a.m. recess.
Rens said some parents decided their children are mature enough to discuss or ask questions about what happened at Parkland, and what’s being done to keep their school safe. “Other parents said, ‘You know what, we want to keep our kids young and innocent and we don’t want our children to know what’s been happening.’ So we really left it to them.”
Rens said principals at all the district’s elementary schools “remained neutral” during any discussion about Parkland, school violence, and gun control. “We didn’t take sides,” Rens said. “We acknowledged their questions, assured them school is safe, and urged them to talk to their parents.”
According to the district, only a handful of students at each of the elementary schools participated in those discussions.