The Lion's Tale

Administration shifts position on student walkout

An+email+sent+out+by+High+School+Principal+and+Associate+Head+of+School+Marc+Lindner+on+March+8+reflected+the+school%27s+change+in+policy+to+allow+students+to+walkout+in+commemoration+of+the+Parkland%2C+Fla.+shooting.
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Administration shifts position on student walkout

An email sent out by High School Principal and Associate Head of School Marc Lindner on March 8 reflected the school's change in policy to allow students to walkout in commemoration of the Parkland, Fla. shooting.

An email sent out by High School Principal and Associate Head of School Marc Lindner on March 8 reflected the school's change in policy to allow students to walkout in commemoration of the Parkland, Fla. shooting.

An email sent out by High School Principal and Associate Head of School Marc Lindner on March 8 reflected the school's change in policy to allow students to walkout in commemoration of the Parkland, Fla. shooting.

An email sent out by High School Principal and Associate Head of School Marc Lindner on March 8 reflected the school's change in policy to allow students to walkout in commemoration of the Parkland, Fla. shooting.

Amelia Davidson, News Editor

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On Thursday, March 8, the CESJDS administration announced in an email that they will allow students to hold a walkout in response to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. This announcement came a day after Head of School Mitchel Malkus signed a letter from Jewish heads of school calling for gun control legislation in light of the shooting.

Both of these events occurred two weeks after JDS originally disallowed a planned student walkout. The administration decided to modify their position after receiving feedback from JDS students.

“Students had approached [the administration] about wanting to find a way that the school could at least allow them to participate, and I know that we worked with students to find a way that we could permit students to participate that we thought would be safe for the students, minimally disruptive, and be a pluralistic and inclusive opportunity,” Malkus said.

On Wednesday, March 7, Malkus signed the letter which was put out by Prizmah, a coalition of Jewish day schools. This letter addressed the shooting in Florida, and called for “common sense legislation that addresses all factors contributing to a safe and secure educational community, including restrictions and safeguards related to guns.”

The letter, which was signed by 139 Jewish day school leaders, included Malkus’ name followed by JDS’ name. Malkus intended to sign the letter as an individual, and not in affiliation with the school’s stance on the issue.

“We’re at a pivotal moment, and I felt that if I don’t express my concerns for keeping schools safe now, then if there’s another incident I’m in effect complicit because I didn’t stand up and say that we have to change something to protect students and faculty,” Malkus said.

Though Malkus claims that including JDS’ name was simply for identification purposes, not everyone felt that way. Junior Ari Gershengorn felt that by including JDS’ name, it seemed as if the school was taking a stance on the issue of gun control, which he feels is an inappropriate action for an educational institution.

“There is a common misinterpretation that this is an official school policy, so I think it’s really important that the school makes it clear that this letter was reflective of Rabbi Malkus’ private opinion, and not the opinion of the school as an institution,” Gershengorn said.

The day after Malkus signed the Prizmah letter, High School Principal and Associate Head of School Marc Lindner sent an email to students announcing that in conjunction with the national walkout initiative, students will have 17 minutes on March 14 in which they can conduct a walkout to a designated location. The email also specified that “there are different opinions among students about the paths to achieving school safety—on our campus all perspectives will be embraced on March 14.”

Lindner is excited to offer this opportunity to students, though he stresses that this must be done in a respectful manner.

“I sincerely hope that this can be approached in a way that is consistent with our school’s value system,” Lindner said. “We want very much for students who have different opinions about how to achieve school safety to have their voices heard respectfully, and at the same time for students to have the opportunity to be a part of something that is going on nationally.”

Dean of Students Roslyn Landy plans to meet with students to discuss their plans for the walkout. In this week’s announcement email, Landy included an invitation for any students with ideas about the walkout to come discuss them with her ahead of March 14.

“My hope is that everyone will show respect for all views and opinions,” Landy said. “We have agreed to allow students to walk out, but the school is not planning any program so I am hopeful that the students will come forward to discuss what they want to do.”

Junior Ilan Cohen, who planned the original walkout which was disavowed by the school, is thrilled with these new developments. He applauds Malkus for signing the Prizmah letter, and he is excited to participate in the student walkout.

“What the school is doing is great, and this walkout should be the first step in a larger conversation which students, administrators, parents, and alumni need to be having, not just at JDS but across the country,” Cohen said.

Gershengorn, on the other hand, is worried that the school’s approval of the walkout may seem like a political position. Though he self-identifies as “pro-gun control,” Gershengorn strongly believes that the school cannot come across as supporting any position on that issue.

“I think that it’s important for JDS to make it very clear that they’re not taking a political stance because this is a pluralistic school and the values of pluralism are very important to many of the students and many of the parents who send their kids here. It’s important to make sure that the people whose opinions are in the minority feel comfortable,” Gershengorn said.

Malkus feels that permitting this walkout, however, is simply the school’s way of allowing a space for student’s voices to be heard, without telling them a specific position to support. Therefore, the school’s allowance of this event indicates support for activism, not support for a partisan issue.

“I love that our student body wants to engage in important issues, and I think that this is an issue that is particularly close to many of the students. What’s happening in Florida is inspiring teenagers all over to have their voices heard, and that is so important,” Malkus said. “I hope that as time goes on we become even better at being a pluralistic school in this area so that people with different viewpoints can feel that the school is not taking stances, but is supporting the notion that there can be different voices among the student body.”

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