March 14

As the national conversation about school violence continues to swirl, students across the country are finding their voice and making an impact on this topic like never before. In fact, March 14 has been identified in a national grassroots effort for students to make a statement in a call to action to put a permanent end to school violence. In our community, a place that honors and values student voice, we have worked closely with our student body, particularly at the high school, to amplify their voices so that their statement can be meaningful, and reverberate beyond our campus, and beyond March 14, while keeping them safe in school as they express themselves.

Each of our school levels will approach March 14 differently, specifically to address age-appropriateness at each level. Outlined below are the approaches at Daniel Hand High School, Polson Middle School, and Brown Middle School, which for the purposes of March 14, we have grouped together with our elementary schools. These groupings are very similar to the way to group our schools when matters of significance emerge in the world around us, and we contemplate the manner in which we will approach our students (e.g. the Sandy Hook tragedy, 9/11, etc.)

Daniel Hand High School

You would be hard-pressed to find any high school in our country that will experience a normal school day on March 14. This is the age group that has been almost exclusively involved in the national debate on school violence since the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. The voices of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have ignited the hearts and minds of countless high school students across the country. They are approaching their age to vote, they are engaged in this topic, and in my humble opinion, they are a generation that far too many people are underestimating. That said, we are respectful of those who choose not to engage on this topic. As a result, we will approach this day at our high school with all students in mind as best we can.

A great deal of communication and consultation with the student body was conducted over the past few weeks. In all, our principal, TJ Salutari, has communicated in groups, or one on one, with over 100 students, in determining ways to support our students on March 14. For example,

  • An email was sent to the DHHS Student Leadership group on February 21st informing participants of a newly scheduled meeting on Monday, February 26th. The focus of the meeting was the potential “walkout” on March 14th. Student leaders were asked to seek input from their peers.
  • Student Leadership met on February 26th to discuss their hopes for March 14th. They provided input as to what they had hoped to accomplish. After considerable debate and discussion, the group agreed on a variety of approaches and chose to meet again on March 1.
  • A voluntary staff meeting was held on February 27th to share the proposed student plans for March 14th with Daniel Hand faculty.
  • Student Leadership met again on March 1st to confirm the plan. Additional students joined the meeting. A student-driven plan was officially confirmed and endorsed by school and district administration on March 1st.
  • Mr. Salutari held individual grade level meetings with each grade in the Dining and Assembly Hall on Monday, March 5th. Each grade level was made aware, by the principal, of the student created plan for March 14th. Meetings took approximately 20 minutes per grade level. These meetings included an opportunity for students to ask questions of Mr. Salutari.
    • During this meeting, the principal confirmed that the March 14th plan was created by students. The only boundary established by the administration was related to staff/students leaving the building at a specific announced time due to safety concerns. It was made clear that the administration would not sanction students leaving the building at an announced time due to safety concerns.

The highest priorities of the administration during the planning and discussions of March 14 were the safety of our students, and finding ways to honor all students, including those who feel compelled to express themselves in a meaningful manner, as well as those who choose not to engage.

Below is an outline of the final plan for Daniel Hand High School on March 14:

    • Students/Staff are asked to wear gray and red in support of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
    • A special schedule has been created for the day that will trim a few minutes off of each period, resulting in a hour-long block for students to engage in a safe “walkout” of their classes while remaining in the building.
    • Media coverage has been requested to be present at Hand from 9:28-10:24 a.m. to help share the voice of the student body outside of the school community.
    • The Madison Police Department will provide additional police presence that day for support, and to ensure the safety of our students. Our strong relationship with the MPD is a sign of unity with an event such as this.
    • Students choosing to “walkout” will proceed to the gym but must use the bridge to get from the east building to the west building at 9:30 a.m. The band will play “America the Beautiful” on the bridge as students pass from the east to west building.
    • Students who choose not to participate may report to the Library Media Center where they can engage in quiet activity during this period of time. The LMC will be staffed and supervised.
    • As students enter the gym there will be a singing of the Star Spangled Banner.
    • U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, will address the Daniel Hand student body with a video recorded message specifically written for the Daniel Hand student body.
    • Two members of the Student Leadership group, chosen by their peers, will address the audience.
    • After the student speeches in the gym, all students will be asked by a member of Student Leadership to exit the bleachers to participate in a “lie down” for 3 minutes to represent the amount of time it takes someone to purchase a gun in some states.
      • No student is required to participate.
    • At 10:00 a.m., any students interested in participating in the “National School Walkout” are invited by a student to “walkout” of the gym and proceed to the Dining and Assembly Hall. There they will remain for 17 minutes representing the 17 victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School .
    • CT State Representative Noreen Kokoruda, will host focus groups with students, giving them an opportunity to express themselves to a state elected officials.
    • Students will have options for further expression:
      • Students may video record a message:
        • To send a supportive message to Stoneman High School.
        • To send a message to elected officials.
      • Letter writing opportunity on the bridge and in the Dining and Assembly Hall:
          • To send a supportive message to Stoneman High School.
          • To send a message to elected officials.

In all, students will be provided an hour to participate in this meaningful event while maintaining an appropriate level of safety in our school. Sadly, announcing and sanctioning hundreds of students to exit our schools potentially puts our students in harm’s way. We interpret the spirit of a “walkout” to be one of making a statement, a meaningful one that will be heard. I am confident that this meaningful, student-driven approach, will amplify the voices of our students well beyond our borders.

The entire event will be recorded so that the student body, can share their collective “voice” in any manner they prefer (i.e. social media, etc.) beyond the school community. Again, this plan for the “walkout” on March 14th is completely student created and students may, or may not, choose to participate. Staff will have the option of participating as well, but it will be their choice.

As a follow up, I have been in conversations with the staff of Congressional Representative, Joe Courtney, and we are discussing the potential of a “town hall” discussion to be hosted by Representative Courtney, specifically for high school students along the shoreline. In addition, State Senator, Ted Kennedy, is interested in following up beyond March 14 and meeting with our students at Daniel Hand.

Polson Middle School

Although this is a younger peer group than our high school students, it is reasonable to assume that many Polson students are aware of the tragedy in Parkland. In fact, some students may be interested in expressing themselves on March 14. However, our approach at Polson will be significantly different than what is planned for the high school, and it will be what we consider age-appropriate for middle school students. By and large it is expected to be a typical school day with the exception outlined below.

  • At 9:40 a.m. any student interested in a moment of silence to honor the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in an effort to make a symbolic statement about putting a permanent end to senseless school violence, will be permitted to proceed to the main gym. The decision to go to the gym is strictly voluntary. Classes will be going on as scheduled. Prior to the 17 minute expression of silence, some Polson students will read brief statements before they will engage in a 17 minute expression of silence, symbolizing the 17 victims on February 14. Following their moment of silence, they will return to class.
  • During the PRIDE Period in each grade, students will be given the opportunity to support students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by writing letters of support. Mr. Henderson has a contact person from the high school who he can send the letters to from Polson students. Again, this activity is voluntary.

  • As with the high school, no student will be permitted to exit the building due to our responsibility to maintain the safety and welfare of each and every child in our care.

    If you are aware that your child has a compelling need to express themselves on this topic, or if they have anxiety related to this topic, it is imperative that you contact Mr. Henderson immediately so that he can work directly with your child on an individual basis. We are counting on parent communication to help us serve our students in the most effective manner.

    Brown Middle School and Elementary Schools

    It is reasonable to assume that not all students at Brown, and most students at our elementary schools, are unaware of the tragedy in Parkland. We are responsible to honor the wishes of all parents in limiting exposure of topics that are within parental rights to limit. It is also reasonable to assume that the mass media, social media, etc., creates a dynamic at Polson that is perhaps more advanced than Brown. However, we do not feel that this matter is an age-appropriate school matter for our students at Brown and our elementary schools. In fact, many parents rightfully choose to, or choose not to, discuss such difficult topics with their children in a manner that aligns with their values. In an effort to honor the developmental level of our K-6 students, March 14 will be a normal school day with an expectation of “business as usual”.

    Again, even at the K-6 level, if you are aware that your child has a compelling need to express themselves on this topic, or if they have anxiety related to this topic, it is imperative that you contact your building principal immediately so that they can work directly with your child on an individual basis. We are counting on parent communication to help us serve our students in the most effective manner. It is expected that all students will remain in their classrooms and engage in a typical school day on March 14, and we are counting on parents to serve as partners in these efforts.

    In closing, I would like to reiterate the values we place on student safety, student voice, and age-appropriateness when serving your children. We have worked to develop a full response to our entire K-12 system for March 14 that places these values at the forefront.

    If you have any questions or feedback please feel free to contact me directly at 203-245-6320 or via email:

    Thomas Scarice
    Superintendent of Schools
    Madison Public Schools
    Madison, CT 06443