Middlebrook students participate in national walkout
Wilton High School students weren’t the only ones in Wilton to participate in a 17-minute walkout on Wednesday, March 14 — 640 Middlebrook students, with permission from their families, did as well. That is about 64% of the school’s student body.
In the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Middlebrook Principal Lauren Feltz said, a group of about 27 seventh and eighth graders “came forward with requests” — one of which was to participate in the nationwide student walkout on March 14 in order to make a “pointed statement of solidarity” and “express their sadness and support for that hurting community.”
Per the group’s request, the school also had a week of daily ways to remember the 17 Parkland victims. For example, the names of the 17 Parkland victims were read during Wednesday’s morning announcements and students listed 17 people they’re thankful for and wrote a letter to at least one on Thursday.
In a March 6 letter to families, Feltz wrote that the intent of the actions was “purely apolitical” and “about kindness, inclusion and hope.”
Most of the school’s March 14 walkout was spent honoring the Parkland victims with moments of silence, following a few words from eighth grader Hayley Sayewitz.
“We are not just staying silent for Parkland — we are staying silent for everyone who’s ever died in an event like this and, unfortunately, every victim to come,” said Hayley, “because no matter what your reason for walking out was, I think we can all agree that we are united against mass shootings.”
Staff members accompanied students and police were present to “ensure student safety” during the walkout, said Feltz.
In her March 6 letter, Feltz wrote that “one of the greatest strengths of the Middlebrook program is the way that students are consistently taught how they can take what they are learning in the classroom and apply it beyond the school to make the world a better place.”
“In developmentally appropriate ways, throughout their three-year career at Middlebrook, our students learn to be engaged, compassionate citizens,” she wrote.
“We teach them to tune into their world, to watch closely, to think for themselves, and to seek opportunities to be agents for positive change in the world.”
Feltz emphasized the importance of carefully navigating to “ensure that we are helping students foster their own personal point of view and value system,” and the fact that Middlebrook educators are “careful not to espouse any political viewpoint” but instead “pose questions that help students become independent thinkers equipped to evaluate the information they are using to develop their ideas.”
“Given what a high value we place on helping to raise active, thoughtful, engaged citizens, it is no surprise that Middlebrook students have strong feelings about school safety in the wake of recent events,” Feltz wrote.
“They understand that walking out is a personal statement. They know that some of their peers would disagree with this decision. They are committed to ensuring that Middlebrook demonstrates respect for students’ personal beliefs whether they agree or not.”
Feltz encouraged families to have conversations with their children about the March 14 event.
“Regardless of which side of the political issue each person is on, this is an opportunity for our students to consider the privileges and responsibilities that they have as citizens in a democracy,” she wrote.
In addition to a signed permission slip from parents, each walkout participant was required to submit a brief statement — at least two sentences — of his or her reason for walking out.
Non-participating students stayed inside with their team teachers during the 17-minute walkout, after which the school day resumed as usual.
The students did “a beautiful job” in “an unfamiliar situation,” Feltz wrote in a March 14 letter to Middlebrook families.
“It made me very proud to be part of the Middlebrook family,” she said.