A Connecticut elementary school is facing criticism after two teachers led a group of kindergartners to march in last week’s national school walkout without parental consent.
About two dozen 5 and 6-year-olds participated in a 17-minute walk outside Harbor Elementary School in New London on Wednesday, marking one month since a gunman killed 17 students and teachers at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Thousands of students nationwide participated in the walkout, organized by a division of the left-wing national Women’s March, in a protest calling for stricter gun control.
The kindergartners, however, were participating in a so-called “safety march,” a parent who was chaperoning the kids that day told a local NBC affiliate.
“It was discussed, it was a safety march and we took them out and they chanted ‘we love school’ and ‘honk your horn.’ And we told them that the 17 angels are above in heaven, they’re watching down and they’re proud,” Olga Vokolou told the station.
“We love school! We love school!” the students chanted in a video posted on Facebook, the station reported.
Joyce Powers, the school’s crossing guard, reported seeing the group of children being escorted in two lines by teachers who were carrying signs that read “enough.”
Ms. Vokolou said her child’s teacher let parents know about the march on Facebook, but New London Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Tracy said there was no written permission from parents.
He said he and the principal didn’t know about the march in advance either.
“When you’re going to do something like that, in connection with something that, let’s face it, is controversial, you need to seek the approval of the principal and the parents before you involve 5-year-olds in something like that,” Mr. Tracy told NBC.
He said he’s spoken with both of the teachers involved but would not say if any disciplinary measures were taken.
“Suffice it to say, lessons were learned and I consider the matter closed,” Mr. Tracy said.
Meanwhile, Board of Education member Jason Catala, the chair of the board’s Policy Committee, said a number of policies were ignored and called for the school’s principal to resign.
“The role of the school principal is one of the most important jobs in the district,” Mr. Catala said, The Day newspaper reported. “They’re in charge of policies and procedures and to ensure the safety of the students at all times. It’s clear the policies and procedures were not followed and, as a result, our children were put at risk.”
“The principal is the pulse of the school, and he needs to know what’s going on at all times,” Mr. Catala added. “It really gets me in my gut what could have happened. I think about my own child.”
Board member Susan Tierney, who has elementary school-aged children in the district, agreed that the event was ill-advised.
“As a parent, I’m upset. As a board member, I hope they did the right thing to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” she said, The Day reported.
Mr. Tracy called it inappropriate for a member of the board to publicly criticize a school employee and called on the board to demand an apology from Mr. Catala.
“Mr. Catala is way out of line in publicly criticizing a member of the school staff, least of all one of the leaders of our schools who comes to work every day committed to the success of every one of the kids at the school,” Mr. Tracy said. “It’s highly inappropriate for a citizen, no less a member of the Board of Education, to make that kind of public comment.”
Mr. Catala said he planned to bring a formal request to the full school board, The Day reported.
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