by Molly Gleydura
HB students are getting ready for the National School Walkout on March 14, but many are still wondering what stance the HB administration is taking. To clear up all of your questions and concerns before the walkout, I reached out to Dr. Bisselle to get some answers.
Last week, I sent Dr. Bisselle a list of questions. I have included both the questions and her complete emailed responses. I also have added some of my own thoughts and opinions following her answers below.
Is Hathaway Brown’s school administration in support of the March 14 National School Walkout or will students be disciplined for their participation?
FB: Yes, we are in TOTAL support and no, no student will be disciplined for participating. We believe all schools should be safe, and student voices are integral to making sure this achieved across the country.
MG: This is good to hear, especially considering that institutions around the country are taking this same position. Many colleges and universities recently have gone as far as to say that if any student who has applied or will apply for enrollment at their schools is disciplined for participating in this valiant form of activism, their admission decisions will not be affected.
Will faculty and administrators be involved in the walkout?
FB: Yes, all faculty and staff and administrators are invited to walkout and participate. We honor the choice to participate and the choice not to participate.
MG: Considering the purpose and message of this walkout, I personally hope to see many of my teachers and other school personnel participating. Though I understand that gun control can be a polarizing topic, and everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, I think that standing up for students’ lives is something all school staff should do. The main goal of this walkout is to advocate for making schools safe. This should be a priority for administrators and teachers alike. As students, we walk into school each day and look up to the adults in our community to protect us. Schools should be safe from gun violence, and it will be unsettling to me if the people charged with my well-being when I’m away from home don’t support this cause.
What do administrators think of the actions taken by the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following the shooting that took place on February 14th?
FB: I think using one’s voice in an informed way to achieve a goal greater than self is one of the highest forms of service and leadership. Strong and powerful voices are an integral part of democracy- and I am excited to witness their passion.
MG: For a long time, the voices of youth have been disregarded. It is refreshing that our ideas and passion for change are finally being recognized and valued. However, it is frankly disgusting and disheartening that it has taken the loss of way too many lives from school shootings to get us to this place.
In the wake of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has HB taken additional precautions to ensure student safety? If so, what specifically are those new measures?
FB: Yes- we are always looking to make HB safer. With safety and security comes the trade off of efficiency and liberty. Requiring everyone to wear passes may seem an inconvenience but so helpful to law enforcement should there be an incident. I continue to reach out to Shaker Heights police department to coordinate with them. Over spring break, I offered them our building to use for training. In addition, teachers will spend part of their in-service time at the end of the year getting certified or refreshing their training in ALICE (active shooter protocol training.)
MG: I think all of these are steps in the right direction, but I also feel that there is always more to be done. During each of our lockdown drills this year, we have been presented a variety of crisis situations and asked to come up with strategies and plans for dealing with them. Often, students present valuable ideas that would be really beneficial during a true emergency (for example, stocking each second-floor room with a rope ladder in case exiting through a window was the only option) that could be implemented into our emergency-preparedness plan. I think the administration needs to pay attention to these suggestions.
Does the school have a specific position on the matter of gun control?
FB: HB does not have a specific position on gun control. Having said this, as the voice of HB in our community, I believe that guns do not belong at school. Schools should be gun free zones.
Many people, including the president of the United States, have said that it would be a good idea to have some teachers carry guns in the classroom. Is that an approach HB would consider? Why or why not?
FB: I have not talked to faculty and staff, not students, to hear their voices on this issue, which is critical. My belief is that schools should be gun free zones. I would authentically engage all and hear what they have to say should this emerge as a recommendation from our local police.
MG: I would love to hear what all of the teachers have to say about the idea of being in possession of a firearm and being charged with the responsibility of using it as a form of protection in an emergency. Teachers are the ones who would have to take on this change if this is dubbed the most effective solution, so I think it is necessary to hear their thoughts and opinions on the matter.
Speaking of armed adults, are HB’s security guards armed? In an emergency, how would we be able to identify the person or people who are the school’s security personnel so that we could ask them for help?
FB: Our local police are armed when they come to HB, and they do regular checks on our campus. Our internal security personnel are not armed, and there is no plan for them to become armed.
Is there anything else we should know about the things school administrators are doing to address safety and security or the topic of gun violence in our school and schools across the country?
FB: It is not lost on those who analyze the many violent incidences that have occurred around the country that it is men/boys are carrying out these tragedies. As a girl’s school, how do help create a culture where boys/men do not act out like this? What can we do in the conversation?
MG: I think it’s troubling to characterize premeditated gun violence simply as “acting out,” and it’s important for all of us to understand the risks in downplaying these situations. As we try to make sense of things, we tend to sanitize them. That is dangerous. Gun violence is not only a boys’ issue. This is something that we need to deal with as a country. Together. Everyone needs to be actively engaged and have a voice in this conversation. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters—all are affected by gun violence and we all need to take a stand if we expect a change. Though it is true that more men are perpetrating the incidents of mass violence, women statistically are more likely to be affected by gun violence than men are. Gun control measures will not improve if the passionate women and girls of this country are most focused on guiding boys away from violence. We have to make serious policy adjustments as well. What’s happening now is not just a conversation. This is a rally cry. I hope to see everyone standing up and making their voices heard on March 14, and every day thereafter until changes are made.