Dear Henley Families,
I hope you and your child(ren) have had a great week! We have been extremely busy at Henley preparing for EXPO, getting ready for band performances, and learning, learning, learning.
I have struggled with the best way to share the information and safety plan for the upcoming National School Walkout Student Demonstration scheduled for March 14 at 10:00 am. I finally settled on writing a narrative in the hopes of conveying all of the information needed to understand Albemarle County’s position and Henley’s response and objectives to support the physical and emotional safety of ALL students.
To begin, since the announcement of the national demonstrations, we have had numerous conversations with members of our central office staff, as a Henley administration and staff, and with Henley students across all grades. My goals in meeting with and talking with these groups were as follows:
- To understand the purpose of the demonstrations
- To hear how ACPS would determine guidelines for the demonstrations
- To align our Henley Middle School plan for student safety with ACPS
- To understand the perspectives of various student groups either participating or not participating.
- To evaluate and adjust our plan as new information became available.
I have now met with staff and students and I feel we are in a good place to share our plan with the school community.
On Wednesday, March 14 at 10:00 am, students have a right to participate in The National School Walkout demonstration. The school’s role is one of support. No staff member from Henley will encourage or discourage a student from participating. Student organizers have proposed to meet in grade level groups to hold their demonstration. The 6th grade will meet on the lower soccer field near the track, the 7th grade will meet on the upper soccer field, and the 8th grade will meet on the black top. Student leaders have written purpose statements that outline why they are walking out. They wrote these in the hopes that their peers who choose to participate will be respectful while attending. It will be up to the adults supervising to ensure that peace and respect exists. For example, this is not a time to run around, laugh, and disrupt the demonstration.
It will be up to the students to lead the demonstration. The school will not announce or signal at any point. Teachers who have students will remain in their classroom with students who are not participating. Teachers who are not teaching, counselors, and administrators will go outside with students as supervisors. Staff will not participate. After 17 minutes students will return to class. If students need additional support, we will have staff available.
We have been talking a lot in our Advisories, not specifically about the demonstrations, but about how to respectfully disagree. We want students to learn that sharing differing opinions, experiences, and worldviews is an exceptionally important part of living and coexisting in a peaceful society. Our students’ worlds are growing and it is important that we help them develop the important life skills that foster and promote civility. Our discussions in Advisory were designed to reinforce these lessons at a time when we might be challenged by events in our lives and in our world.
There will be many students who will question whether they should participate. This is where we could use your help. Please have a conversation with your child about his/her intent. We want students to have individual choice without the fear of other students saying or doing anything to influence a decision. At this age, students are particularly mindful and sensitive to the words and actions of their friends and peers, so a conversation in advance can be so important.
Our school goal is for all students to feel safe at school. We work towards this goal everyday and Wednesday will be the same. Thank you so much for your partnership in your child’s education. As always, please email me directly with any questions (email@example.com).
Beth Costa, principal