Official worries walk-out could harm kids

JOHNSTOWN –Ironically, the National School Walkout scheduled at 10 a.m. March 14 to highlight the need for better school safety and gun controlcould endanger students, an area school official contends.

Any walkout that puts students outside school buildings at a specific time and date tells potential bad guys when they can attack students, said Patrick Michel, superintendent of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

Michel is instructing the administrators of BOCES programs serving almost 1,000 students to allow students an opportunity for forums, such as teach-ins, to express their worries, concerns and ideas. He advises other school administrators to do the same. “The students may come up with [safety] ideas we haven’t ever heard of,” he said. “I’m all for students to have a voice–on either side–but not leave the safety of their buildings where they can be attacked,” he said, based on training he has received from state police, the FBI and other law enforcement personnel.

Most schools have safety procedures, such as a single point of entry, but students outside could be vulnerable to any kind of aggression, such as guns or car bombs, he said.

Michel said a preannounced outside walkout is a “crazy idea” that could defeat the purpose of the event.

In response to a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, national organizers have scheduled the 17-minute walkout on the one month anniversary of the killings. The walkout is a call to Congress to “pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship,” according to Women’s March Youth EMPOWER organizers, USA Today Network reported. Seventeen students died during the Valentine’s Day shooting.