Report by Paula Antolini
March 15, 2018, 9:00AM EDT
Defiant BHS Students Participate in ‘Enough! National School Walkout’ to Protest Gun Violence, Despite Discipline Warnings from Principal
Students Exit Bethel High School Building and Then Walk Off Campus, After Indoor “Advisory” Memorial Event
Thousands of students across the nation rallied virtually together on March 14, 2018, in the #ENOUGH! National School Walkout, hosted by the Women’s March and Women’s March Youth, to protest gun violence and hold a memorial for the 17 Florida school shooting victims, by participating in a “walkout” while school was in session.
Approximately 75 Bethel High School (BHS) students defied school authority (despite warnings of discipline in an earlier email from BHS Principal Troetti) and participated in the “walkout” by leaving the school building after the “Advisory” event in the BHS gym.
Students poured out of the BHS front entrance en masse, yelling loudly, walking quickly, and more were seen exiting a side door (you can view in video below). Many students carried protest signs. Some students left the campus and walked into town and some students were on the CJH Municipal Center lawn. Students there said ten 18-year-old students registered to vote and First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker had greeted them and encouraged them in their cause.
Other students stayed in school for the presentation (called an “Advisory” in Bethel) but then went back to class until dismissal time.
View video below of students we found in front of the CJH Municipal Center in Bethel at about 11:30am. They said ten students had registered to vote in the municipal center earlier. We asked them a few more questions:
Note: The video was cut short because the student’s ride arrived (car) but no word on whether they returned to school or home or other location.
THE ADVISORY EVENT
Today’s Bethel Public Schools indoor “Advisory” event, which was to be a memorial to the 17 victims from the February 14, 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a way to let student voices be heard, was held from 9:35am to 10:20am in the school gym. The event was previously to be on the BHS field, but due to snow covering the field plans were changed.
The events today were in solidarity with the #Enough National School Walkout movement, which stems from Women’s March Youth EMPOWER “calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout for 17 minutes at 10am across every time zone on March 14, 2018″ to combat gun violence,” reads the website.
During the “Advisory” event BethelPublic Schools Superintendent Dr. Carver posted several photos on her twitter account (view below).
Photo above: (Left to right) Speakers at the Advisory event were: Allison Hermansen, Joely Feder, Catherine Rodriguez, Aileen Zheng, Audrey Garcia, all juniors except Catherine Rodriguez who is a sophmore. (Six photos above by Dr. Christine Carver.)
Five students stood in the front of the gym (we are assuming after the “emergency procedures” info. section of the Advisory were discussed) and they read the names of the 17 victims then a moment of silence was held.
“Just one month ago in Parkland, Florida, a gunman stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 people,” said Audrey Garcia, a junior.
Allison Hermansen, also a junior, said, “This is not the only incident of gun violence in schools. We all know about Columbine, Sandy Hook, and countless other events. We will now honor those who passed in Parkland.”
Each of the 5 students standing in front of the gym read 3-4 names each of the Parkland victims. “Let us take a moment to honor the many teens and adults who passed,” said Garcia. A moment of silence was observed.
Garcia continued, “Students should not have to fear going school. We come to school to learn, to grow, and to collaborate with others. This is the space where everyone should feel safe. A space where no one should ever be in fear of being shot.”
“Today thousands of students across the country are getting together to share their concerns about this issue, as we are. Our plans were to go out to the track but as you can see, it is covered in snow so we are instead in the gym,” Joely Feder, a junior, said. “No matter what you believe needs to be done about these senseless acts of violence, we are all here because we have the right to an opinion and a right to express that opinion. Our [unintelligible] holds power. We are here to make our voices heard, about an issue we care strongly about. This is what matters in our fight to end school violence.”
“We are not here to tell you what to believe. This is not about political parties. This is about a change that needs to come. Although you believe that schools need more security, mental screening must improve, or that gun laws much change, share your beliefs with others. Talk to each other about changes we can make so events like Parkland never ever happen again,” Catherine Rodriguez, a sophomore, said. “As a citizen of the United States, it is your Constitutional right to share your opinion with morals.”
Garcia said, “We have a comprehensive list of resources to help you all participate in a conversation surrounding school safety, which will be emailed to you later today. We are also creating a new form for you to submit any questions, concerns or inquiries for our school administration. So look out for that today as well.”
Garcia said. “We urge you to tweet, post on Instagram, call, and email letters and messages to people and organizations to show America that students have had enough.”
Aileen Zheng, a junior, said, “As a group we have also made a banner for this cause. If you would like to sign it in support of making a change, we will have it in the lobby after school. Thank you all for coming.”
BHS Principal Troetti spoke, and said in part, “As I said to you this morning, there’s no one right answer to this. It’s your job. You are the ones that have power to make change. Whatever that may be, you have to think about it, and think of ways you are going to make your voice heard. Okay? There’s a lot of ways to do that and this was just one of them here today.”
Troetti continued, “Now it’s time for you to make those important decisions. With those decisions come consequences, so decide what’s most important to you and will the action you take make a difference. That’s what’s important. So understand all sides of the issue. Understand the impact of that decision you made, the thing is, to the future of this country. That’s what’s important.”
“So the person sitting next to you may have a completely different point of view of how to take action. It’s the conversations you have with those people that are meaningful an important. It’s not shouting one decision is most important, one action is the most important, it’s all your reflected actions together. So if you believe something that’s different than others, don’t be afraid to talk about it,” Troetti said.
An edited 7:40 video of today’s indoor “Advisory” event was eventually posted on the school’s BETV website by the school, view here.
The BHS indoor “Advisory” event was not on live feed online in real time and parents or the public were not allowed to attend, including news media, who were not permitted in school buildings or on campus either. (Read more below under “POLICE.”)
Click on each photo to view larger.
Photos above: Bethel High School students exit front and side doors of BHS building to start their protest on March 14th.
RESOURCES SENT TO STUDENTS
“Student Violence – Resources” was sent to students on 3-15-18 and read : Attached is the list of resources we mentioned in today’s assembly,” but sent from student Joely Feder’s school email address, and sent to all students in Class of 2018, Class of 2019, Class of 2020, and Class of 2019. View resources sent to students, below.
Editor Note / Questions: We do not know who compiled the list below or how the information on the list was selected, or who authorized this list be sent to students, and all but two of 14 references are democrat sources. Should we assume the administration at BPS/BHS approved this? Also, is it acceptable to parents for political information to be sent to students directly, via school email, and/or not notify parents of same?
Click on images below to view larger.
“Student Violence – Resources” that were sent to students were:
There was a Bethel Police presence at most school entrances (view photos below) preventing anyone from entering the school buildings, and Bethel Advocate (the only media there) was only eventually allowed to drive on the main road (Whittlesey) but not enter parking lots, or exit vehicle, according to Bethel Police Captain Pugner, who said it was a directive from the Chief of Police, when asked.
Editor Note: Once I was finally permitted to enter the school campus (on Whittlesey) I was allowed to pull to the side of the road near BHS for about 15 minutes, but then told to “move.” So I was able to capture only a few photos. Normally I shoot more close up photos but under the circumstances, it was difficult.
EMAIL TO STUDENTS ONLY
Another email was sent only to students (and not parents/guardians) on Tuesday night, 3-13-18, at 9:22pm, indicating that the Wednesday “Advisory” event would first include “emergency procedures” then the “student-led presentation” moving the start time of the event to 9:35am instead of 10:00am.
This was a slight departure from what the students were told the event would be in an email from Principal Christopher Troetti on March 9th, which never mentioned emergency procedures.
Troetti stated in the March 9th email, “…on March 14 during a regularly scheduled Advisory period, students who want to participate in a student-led presentation, will proceed to the football field (weather permitting) for a 17 minute presentation to honor the 17 lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. During that time, they will conduct a moment of silence and each victim’s name will be read. Student leaders will also educate their peers on mechanisms to communicate their opinions as part of the democratic process (a lesson in civics).”
Here is the email below:
Email from BHS, 9:22PM 3-13-18
Dear BHS Students,
We have a unique bell schedule for Wednesday, March 14th. The link is HERE.
(Editor: see below for schedule chart)
During the first 20 minutes of Advisory, your teachers will review some critical information about our Fire Drill, Lock Down and Emergency Procedures. It is imperative that you pay close attention to this presentation since we will be reviewing protocols for various situations and emergencies.
For the second portion of Advisory, students will be able to attend a student-led presentation in the gymnasium OR attend a learning lab. We moved the student-led presentation to the Gymnasium since the football field is covered in snow.
VIEW MORE PHOTOS BELOW:
Photo above: Bethel students walking along the road near Bethel High School with protest signs,after just having exited the front door of BHS.
Photo above: Bethel students walking along side Bethel High School with protest signs.
Photo above: Bethel students walking along side Bethel High School with protest signs.
Photo above: Bethel Police cars block Bethel High School entrance to parking lot and front entrance of school.
Photo above: Bethel Police in unmarked car block Bethel Public Schools campus entrance on Judd Avenue.
Photo above: Bethel Police block Bethel Middle School, Johnson and Rockwell Schools entrance road off Whittlesey.
Photo above: Bethel Police were also stationed at Bethel Middle School entrance (see next photo, car was out of camera range to right).
Photo above: Bethel Police were stationed at Bethel Middle School entrance.
Photo above: Bethel students walking along Route 302 in Bethel, towards Route 58, with Bethel Police car riding in front of them near curb on left side of road.
Photo above: Bethel students walking along road near Bethel Track and Field, towards Bethel High School.
Photo above: A Bethel Police car blocks the back entrance of the Bethel High School near Bethel Track and Field, with several more officers standing along the sidewalk.