DGS administration forum fails to hear student voices

Marc Alvarez

More stories from Marc Alvarez

Issue 3
January 25, 2019
Issue 5
May 18, 2018

Monday’s forum about school safety in response to the student gun control walkout was anything but an appropriate response. Instead of the promised discussion addressing student concerns, administrators patronizingly lectured students, appeared to use student leaders as props, and most alarmingly used the words “gun” and “shooting” zero times.

What was billed as an opportunity for DGS students and administrators to have a dialogue about school safety concluded 20 minutes early without the opportunity for students to ask a single question . Students afterward were both confused and angry over the lack of an actual discussion. Senior Aoife McGivern expressed that she felt “insulted” while fellow DGS senior Gillian Thomas described her feelings as “appalled.”

Throughout the “forum,” a central focus was the idea of “shared responsibility” between students and administrators. Students were advised to notify the school of any suspicious behavior and utilize the Anonymous Alerts system. While community engagement is very important, focusing on this completely ignores the fact that the Parkland shooter was reported to not only his school but also the local police and the FBI—yet 17 families still had to bury their slain sons and daughters last month in Florida.

Reporting suspicious behavior can only go so far. Feelings of half-way solutions continued as students were told about the 60-plus extracurricular activities offered at DGS and the sense of school spirit. How exactly school spirit would prevent a lone wolf attack never was even attempted to be explained.

In fact, the whole forum seemed to dance around the issue at hand. Whether the administration misread the thoughts and feelings of students who participated in the walkout or believed that Monday’s forum would adequately address student concerns is unclear. What is clear is that students were not satisfied.

Senior Max Schmidt-Bailey, one of the lead organizers of the student walkout, had his hand raised for much of the forum in an attempt to have his question answered. Both he and many other students looked visibly upset and frustrated after it became clear that students would be denied the ability to ask questions.

There was no given explanation as to why there were no questions. A possible explanation is that the administration was worried they would have no answer. The simple and disturbing truth is that as long as guns are readily available, any student could walk into school with a gun in their backpack and instantly cause the death of their fellow students.

That is what the walkout was about. That was not what the forum was about. The disconnect between the administrators and students was palpable and felt by all throughout.

At one point, our generation was referred to as the “9/11 Generation.” A more apt descriptor would be what David Hogg—Parkland shooting survivor and the National March for Our Lives organizer—calls the “School Shooting Generation.” Seemingly every month another community faces immense tragedy, and nothing said in Monday’s so-called forum will prevent that.

At best yesterday’s “forum” represented a misguided lecture led by a group of startlingly out-of-touch administrators, at worst it was a poorly executed performance put on by the administration that used student leaders—who afterward described feelings of embarrassment and disgust at Monday night’s board meeting—as props.

Student leaders reported afterward that administrators stated that student questions would not be heard due to a lack of actual answers addressing student concerns. If this is true, why was it hidden? Why will the administration not state this publicly?

On March 14 students at DGS and across the nation walked out of school to have their voices heard on gun control. Monday’s forum was ostensibly an attempt by the administration to hear these voices, but from the first few minutes, it was clear this was not the case.

Instead, student voices, questions and concerns will be filed away in a Google Form where they, according to an email from Assistant Principal Karen Taylor, “will be reviewed by the Student Safety Committee and District Safety Committee.” However, if Monday’s forum is any indication, students will never hear an answer to their questions.