CESJDS administration condemns planned student walkout

A planned student walkout in response to the gun violence at Stoneman Douglas High School was discouraged by the CESJDS school administration on Thursday, Feb. 22. High school students planned this walkout to push for gun control and show solidarity with the Florida students.

The walkout, which was spearheaded by junior Ilan Cohen and freshman Nate Miller, was originally supposed to take place at 9 a.m. on Thursday morning and was later pushed to 3:20 p.m. the same day. Following a clear condemnation by the school, the organizers decided to suspend the walkout.

“We understand why it is difficult for the administration to put their name behind the event, and in some ways, we are not even asking them to,” Cohen said. “We are asking for them to allow it to happen, and there is a big difference between allowing it to happen and supporting it. In an ideal world, the school would be putting their name behind the event; we don’t expect that.”

Organizers spread the word about the walkout through social media, with a post in a JDS students Facebook group. Multiple other students put announcements about the walkout on their personal social media accounts, which allowed for much of the student body to hear about it before coming to school on Thursday.

After the administration got word of this unapproved protest, High School Principal and Associate Head of School Marc Lindner delivered an announcement over the loudspeaker during the first period of the school day Thursday to all students saying that JDS does not condone the student walkout. According to the school handbook, students receive a 1% grade reduction in any class they choose to skip, and the administration made it clear that students would receive consequences if they were to leave class for a walkout that was not school sanctioned.

Students from many Washington D.C. and Montgomery County schools chose to hold their own walkouts on Feb. 21. According to the Washington Post, a Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman told students protesting yesterday that they would receive unexcused absences as a result. In Texas, the school superintendent threatened suspensions for any students who walked out during the school day.

As an institution, JDS clearly condemns school violence and there are plans in the works to have an official school commemoration for the tragedy in Florida on March 14, a day when many schools around the country are planning to have similar events. Like MCPS, JDS refuses to take a political stance on gun control, and therefore a walkout that goes beyond just commemorating the event was not welcomed by the school, according to Dean of Students Roslyn Landy.

CESJDS is an educational institution and as such, we do not support political issues which is why we could not support a walkout for political purposes. It is also important to remember that allowing students to walk out of school is a safety and security issue as we are responsible for students,” Landy said. “We encourage our students to stand up for what they believe and work toward change but if it is a political issue, they need to get involved outside of school.”

Cohen, however, does not believe that the commemoration planned does enough to address the issue. He believes that since the commemoration would be apolitical, it would not call proper attention to the issue of gun control, and it is therefore not an effective event.

“For [the students who want to walk out], we believe that gun control is one of the most necessary steps in the process of making our schools safer and is something that Congress needs to be getting behind as soon as possible and making these legislative changes,” Cohen said.

Following JDS’ decision to disavow the walkout, members of the alumni community decided to get involved. Alumnus Yonah Lieberman (‘09) wrote a Facebook post titled “Calling all alumni of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School,” in which he deemed the school’s actions “unacceptable” and called on alumni to email Landy with their thoughts and to spread the word.

Current students at JDS have mixed opinions. Junior Sophia Sadikman supports the school’s decision to not condone any walkouts or political demonstrations. While she believes students have the right to express their opinions in any permitted form, she does not think it is the place of the school to push political reform.

“I think it’s important that we stand in solidarity with the victims and I think it’s important to hold a commencement ceremony and to recognize the tragedy; however, I think that making this political is a mistake,” Sadikman said.

Sophomore Matthew Wieseltier thinks that the protest was an effort to acknowledge the tragedy and hoped to participate in the walkout because he believes it is important “to show solidarity with the survivors, and to show that there are people out there who aren’t going to stand for this constant NRA crap.”

This decision was not an easy one for the school administration. According to Lindner, the administration faced a clear dilemma between allowing students to express their opinions and prioritizing their education and safety.

“We absolutely want for our students, for JDS students, to be able to be a part of what’s going on nationally, it’s just at the same time we want the school to be able to continue,” Lindner said. “Which is why we’re still looking for, and planning, a way for both to happen, for students to be able to be a part of this conversation and to do it in a way that’s not going to be disruptive to school.”