Just as schools were winding down for winter break, many were once again forced to confront national issues as school safety and gun control returned to the forefront.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day left 17 dead. Along with sadness and fear for students’ safety, it has prompted a nationwide call for change.
In Southold, a high school student is organizing a walkout as part of the National School Walkout movement, set for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. The Parkland shooting replaced the 1999 shooting in Columbine as the deadliest high school shooting in the country.
It is unclear if students in the Riverhead or Shoreham-Wading River school districts are taking part.
Students are being encouraged to attend school, then walk out of class at 10 a.m. and peacefully protest outside their schools for the rest of the day.
Other walkouts are planned as well. The Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group is planning a national school walkout on March 14, a month after the Florida shooting. That walkout will last 17 minutes, in memory of the 17 people who lost their lives.
Student organizers, some of them from Parkland, have organized a march in Washington, D.C., for school safety and gun control.
The “March For Our Lives” is slated for March 24.
In an open letter to the Riverhead school community, Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said Friday that student safety is the district’s first priority and offered assurances that the district is equipped with a comprehensive crisis plan for a variety of emergency situations.
“With the assistance of local law enforcement, these plans are reviewed annually and updated as needed,” she said, adding that safety drills are conducted throughout the year.
She offered school social workers, guidance counselors and psychologists as resources to help students deal with their feelings following the shooting in Florida.
She also shared some information from the National Association of School Psychologists on tips for parents and teachers on talking to children about violence.
“It is important that our students feel safe at school, and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the health and safety of your children,” Ms. Henriquez said.
In Shoreham-Wading River, Superintendent Gerard Poole posted the same information on the district’s website.
“High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved ones are at risk,” the information said.
Tips include reassuring children that they are safe, emphasizing that schools are very safe, reviewing safety procedures and maintaining normal routines. The information can be found at nasponline.org.