March 12, 2018
Dear Chatham Families,
As you know, here at Chatham High School we have been discussing incidents of school violence around the nation and taking steps to remember the victims and support the families in Parkland, Florida. I am proud of the way our students and staff have handled themselves throughout the process. The classroom discussions I have sat in on have been respectful and thoughtful as the students listened to each other’s differing opinions. This will be crucial in our ability to move forward in a positive, productive manner.
By all accounts the picture that we took and sent along to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was appreciated by that community. We have received feedback from members of that community and they were moved by our message of support.
As we approach March 14th, the day of the proposed National Walk-Out, it has become clear that a number of our students would like to participate. We respect our students’ constitutional rights to express their views; at the same time it is not appropriate for a school to advance a particular political cause or to support political events. Our primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of our students and to maintain an orderly learning environment.
Here is how we plan to approach the March 14th event:
Students will be allowed to memorialize the victims of school violence and advocate for school safety. We have areas designated both inside the school and outside of the school that can be monitored to keep our students isolated and safe. Please understand that this event is for our students only. We will stay consistent with the nationally proposed 17-minute time frame and then students will return to classes as scheduled. Our expectation is that this will be a peaceful and thoughtful memorial that results in minimal disruption to the school day. Students who do not wish to participate in the memorial may continue working in their classrooms with their teachers.
We are aware that more events are being planned, most specifically on April 20th. On this date, Chatham High School will be conducting a regular school day and we expect students to be in class. Unexcused absences will be handled in accordance with our student Code of Conduct.
The tragedy in Florida has resulted in students becoming more concerned about safety and other issues related to this horrible event. We strongly support our students and their desire for safe schools. Their safety and wellbeing is our top priority. We will continue to discuss these issues in the coming days and weeks. We will do all that we can to make this an extension of the educational process, while maintaining a safe learning environment.
Thank you and please let me know if you have any questions regarding these matters.
John T. Thorsen
Chatham High School Principal