Students Walk Out, Make Plea for Safe Schools
At Wayzata High School, several hundred students walked out carrying signs demanding stricter gun laws. It was a similar story at Armstrong High School and other schools that participated in National Walkout Day to honor 13 students and four staff members killed exactly one month ago at a school in Parkland, Fla.
“Only adults over 21 should carry guns and weapons and it shouldn’t be brought to school,” said Armstrong student Trayvaire Davis.
“We’re teenagers, we don’t need this. We should be worrying about going out on dates and prom and stuff,” explained Armstrong student Mulki Ahmed. “We shouldn’t be worrying about if we’re going to die tomorrow.”
The Armstrong rally and others at northwest metro schools were 17 minutes long, one minute for each victim killed.
“It hurts me that innocent people just got shot, and they didn’t deserve that,” said Armstrong student Daemeah Karbeah.
School administrators were supportive of the students exercising their First Amendment rights. They say students will not be disciplined, instead calling it a “teaching moment.”
“This is the new Civil Rights Movement. This is an opportunity for our students to put their voices out there like they’ve been doing. We’re going to be here for our students, guiding them, giving them the opportunity to just be students,” explained Robbinsdale School District Superintendent Carlton Jenkins.
Paying for School Security Upgrades
Meanwhile, school security was also top of mind at the state Capitol, where lawmakers discussed how to pay for upgrades. One bill in the Minnesota Senate would allow school districts to temporarily increase funding for security improvements.
Currently schools have a tough time finding money to pay for upgrades to aging school buildings. If you add costly security upgrades like cameras or safety glass, it’s a high price tag without a clear funding source.
“In Osseo Area Schools, we have a proactive plan to improve safety and security measures in schools that identifies $16 million worth of needs,” says Dave Moredock, coordinator of risk management for Osseo Area Schools. “The challenge we face is under our current funding model, it would take 27 years to implement those security improvements.”
Moredock is one of two staff members from Osseo Area Schools that spoke to a Senate committee about the need for funding to pay for increased school security.
A bill authored by Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, which has the support of the Minnesota School Board Association and the Association of Metro School Districts, would authorize school districts to use money earmarked for long-term facility maintenance to also be used for school security. This bill would also allow local districts to temporarily raise revenue by $100 per pupil, without getting voter approval by referendum. School districts could raise security money for seven years, if this bill becomes law.
“Safety and security upgrades and measures are urgently needed in our schools. In the wake of the Parkland, Florida tragedy, parents are asking more and more what are we doing to keep their children safe,” says Moredock. “I have met with countless parents in the past month and what I’m hearing from them is we need more security and we need it now.”
Sonya Goins & Shannon Slatton reporting