STUDENTS UNITED – Between 30 and 45 La Conner high school students spent some or all of Monday on the grassy knoll at the entrance to the elementary school. They walked out of class at 8:20 a.m., frustrated with the lack of responses they have gotten from administrators over many grievances. – Photo by Ken Stern
On Monday 20 students from La Conner High School took to the grass outside the elementary school with not one purpose, but many. Led by Samantha Nelson, a junior, students walked out during their first period class to protest not only what they considered to be an unsafe environment, but also the looming notion that their voices and opinions are seen as nothing more than trivial by district administrators. At 8:20 a.m. the 20 congregated in the Freshman Commons, and after quick deliberation, made their way to sit on the greens in the middle of the campus for all to see. In contrast to last year’s protests, there was no chanting, no marching and no signs; this made for some speculation as to what exactly the students were protesting. School security specialist John Aguilar and middle/high school Principal Todd Torgeson went out to the crowd of young adults and started looking for answers. Asked why they were out there, scattered voices chimed in, saying they felt unsafe at school and that this walkout was inspired by an incident that occurred the week prior. The conversation snowballed, the dialogue seemingly spread evenly among five or so students, their peers staying quiet. As Torgeson garnered a better understanding of the issue, he said that the staff are not mind readers, that they can’t act on behalf of the students if said students are unwilling to communicate with them. His remark was countered by a student saying that some pupils may be hesitant to go to an administrator with an issue if they have had past experiences where going to a teacher resolved little to nothing. The students entertained the mindset that talking to administrators is futile because there is seldom any follow up. Torgeson went on record saying that, contrary to what some students may think and feel, most, if not all problems are looked into by the district. The reason many of these students feel as though their issues go unanswered is because administrators treat privacy not only as a privilege, but a policy – in order to protect the confidentiality of some, others have to be kept in the dark. Even though administrators look into a student’s issue, the student may not be notified as to whether or not there was a resolution, he explained. Outside, students argued that even if they are not to be afforded all the details, they’ve warranted being kept in the loop by bringing the issue to the table in the first place. Superintendent Whitney Meissner acknowledged that while the district can’t give students all the details of every situation brought to the table, they definitely could do a better job of reassuring students that their concerns are valid and not being swept under the rug. She came out to observe and spoke with students. As the day went on, students were on the grass moving to and fro. It seemed that the core group of students out there since the start were still fixed on their mission. More transient protesters seemed to either not know what they were protesting, or they would come up with a just cause on the spot, one student even saying he was on the grass to protest for an open campus. Some students started to make signs while others made comments that they were protesting certain students receiving special treatment from the school when it came to discipline, saying that the school goes out of its way to protect specific demographics. The protest went on until the end of the school day, some students seizing the opportunity to leave campus early, others staying after the bell to clean up the grounds. Asked if she thought the protest was a success, Nelson replied she was hopeful that the turnout made the impact it was supposed to. She was hesitant to say they succeeded until the changes they are demanding are put in place. Administrators said they were more than willing to work out these issues with the students, they just need some clarity as to what problems need followup. The student walkout was a topic of school administrators weekly Tuesday morning meeting. Tronsdal is a La Conner high school senior.