Marietta City Schools students who participate in walkouts in response to the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, will not receive disciplinary action.

That’s according to an email sent by Superintendent Grant Rivera and the system's principals to MCS families Sunday.

“In the event students in Marietta City Schools choose to exercise their voice through a walkout, we want you to know we will respect and empower their choice,” the email reads. “And, at the same time, we will do everything possible to maintain safety, order, and discipline. We are not going to assign disciplinary consequences to students who engage in peaceful and respectful activism; rather, we will take a common sense approach that allows us to resume a normal school schedule.”

Students across the nation have said they will leave their classrooms March 14, the one-month anniversary of the shooting, and stay out for 17 minutes, in honor of the 17 people killed in the attack.

Rivera’s email goes on to draw comparisons to prominent protest movements in American history.

“We believe that our schools educate our children so they learn to be independent and critical thinkers in a democratic society,” the email reads. “We also believe that such advocacy should always be done in a peaceful, respectful manner that does not infringe upon the rights or safety of others. Historians would agree that some of the most profound change in our country came through peaceful protest. Two such examples include the Women’s Suffrage Parade of 1913, whereby 5,000 women marched through our nation’s capital to advocate for the rights of women; and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which brought over 200,000 Americans to promote racial equality and justice and concluded with Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, ‘I Have a Dream.’”

In a separate email to MCS staff, Rivera directed teachers to listen to principals for advice on how to talk to students about walkouts based on their age and school dynamics.

“The age and maturity of our students are different in each school and, as such, we don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach across our district regarding potential walkouts,” Rivera write. “In some situations, these national movements will pass by without student awareness or acknowledgement; in other situations and classrooms, students may initiate conversation with you and even choose to participate in a walkout. Your principal has thought through the dynamics of how to be proactive and reactive in such situations based on the age of students and dynamics in your school — I trust them to lead and guide you and the students appropriately … I need each of you to do your part to keep our kids focused on learning, on the aforementioned dates and every day. We can be responsive to student interest and voice without fanning the emotions of a child/teenager. Use common sense. Just like the principals … I trust you.

“As you have specific questions or needs, please connect with your principal. I am eager to have you back with our students tomorrow — no doubt they need you.”

Cobb County Superintendent Chris Ragsdale was not immediately available for comment.

The full letters are reproduced below:

Dear MCS Staff,

I hope that each of you enjoyed some much deserved down time during our mid-winter break.

In the spirit of over-communication, I wanted you to be aware of an email that is being sent to all MCS families this afternoon regarding potential student walkouts (see message in italics below). In recent days, we have been in contact with your principal to talk through the dynamics and how best to communicate one consistent message to all families.

To that end, I want to ask each of you to be mindful of the following:

1. On March 14, particularly among our older students, it is possible they may want to participate in the National School Walkout. Additional dates that have gained national traction include March 24 (March for Our Lives, organized by survivors from Stoneman Douglas High School) and April 20 (honoring the 19th anniversary of Columbine HS).

2. The age and maturity of our students are different in each school and, as such, we don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach across our district regarding potential walkouts. In some situations, these national movements will pass by without student awareness or acknowledgement; in other situations and classrooms, students may initiate conversation with you and even choose to participate in a walkout. Your principal has thought through the dynamics of how to be proactive and reactive in such situations based on the age of students and dynamics in your school – I trust them to lead and guide you and the students appropriately.

3. I need each of you to do your part to keep our kids focused on learning, on the aforementioned dates and every day. We can be responsive to student interest and voice without fanning the emotions of a child/teenager. Use common sense. Just like the principals…I trust you.

As you have specific questions or needs, please connect with your principal.

I am eager to have you back with our students tomorrow – no doubt they need you. Wishing each of you a great week…

Grant

Dear MCS Family,

This message comes to you on behalf of all our school principals in Marietta City Schools. Each of us – with one voice – to acknowledge the importance of student voice.

As you may be aware, there is a national movement to empower student voice through potential “walkouts” in the coming weeks and months. One such example is Wednesday, March 14. Students from across the country have indicated they intend to hold a 17-minute walkout during the school day – one minute for each of the 17 lives taken in the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. While it is possible this degree of activism may only occur among our older students, we felt it appropriate to acknowledge the dynamics across our k-12 district.

We believe that our schools educate our children so they learn to be independent and critical thinkers in a democratic society. We also believe that such advocacy should always be done in a peaceful, respectful manner that does not infringe upon the rights or safety of others. Historians would agree that some of the most profound change in our country came through peaceful protest. Two such examples include the Women’s Suffrage Parade of 1913, whereby 5,000 women marched through our nation’s capital to advocate for the rights of women; and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which brought over 200,000 Americans to promote racial equality and justice and concluded with Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, “I Have a Dream.”

As we reflect on this moment in American history before us now, we are hopeful that our nation’s students will have the voice and the courage to positively impact school safety.

In the event students in Marietta City Schools choose to exercise their voice through a walkout, we want you to know we will respect and empower their choice. And, at the same time, we will do everything possible to maintain safety, order, and discipline. We are not going to assign disciplinary consequences to students who engage in peaceful and respectful activism; rather, we will take a common sense approach that allows us to resume a normal school schedule.

Thank you for trusting us with your children – both as students today and leaders tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Superintendent and Principals of Marietta City Schools

Grant Rivera, Superintendent

Julie King, Burruss Elementary School

Jeff Mosley, Dunleith Elementary School

Kristen Beaudin, Hickory Hills Elementary School

Darlene Darby, Lockheed Elementary School

Christina Wagoner, Marietta Center for Advanced Academics

Gabe Carmona, Marietta High School

Dayton Hibbs, Marietta Middle School

Corey Lawson, Marietta Sixth Grade Academy

Matt Freedman, Park Street Elementary School

Susan Graves, Sawyer Road Elementary School

Dan McGuire, West Side Elementary School

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(5) comments

Tom Smith

So silly......BOE needs to think how this effects system discipline and Rivera's judgement.

LUKE BRACKETT

This makes sense. After all after what happened to the very capable Sam Olens confronting a few cheerleaders getting knee bends who would want to go against the better judgement of students? Students and their wishes rule the waves now. And that future fat retirement check has to be safeguarded.

Johanna Williams

A sorry commentary on the state of American public education. The American education system continues its downward spiral into liberal left wing chaos. With students now running the schools, what are we paying administrators for?

WethePeople

This is outrageous. Who runs our schools, adults or children? In our case its apparently adults who like making political statements instead of keeping our children safe. I didn’t sign up for this and neither did our children!!! This is a lack of critical thinking!!! Send Rivera on to whatever district is next for this “educator” turned politician!!!

Tom Smith

I would like to know what Rivera plans on doing that is constructive that prevents a shooting from happening at MCS. I suppose you can skip class for an increase in the minimum wage too.

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