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Durango school superintendent discourages student walkout over gun violence

Movement on social media calls for nationwide event March 14
Dan Snowberger, superintendent of Durango School District 9-R, worries that a national movement for students to walk out of classrooms on March 14, to show support for measures to end gun violence in schools, could create an unsafe environment for students.

Concerns about safety are leading Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger to recommend that parents discourage their children’s participation in a national student walkout about gun violence in schools.

“I would rather students participate in a safe environment,” Snowberger said.

A widespread movement on social media is encouraging students across the country to walk out of their schools at 10 a.m. March 14 to show support for ending gun violence at schools.

Snowberger said he is particularly concerned because the time and date for the walkout are being widely publicized online and that gives anyone who might plan to harm students knowledge about when they would be vulnerable.

“Student safety has to be first and foremost on our minds,” Snowberger said.

He added that school officials are discussing alternatives with safe activities within school grounds for students to still be able to participate. One idea is to hold an assembly for students to discuss the issue. Other ideas would be to encourage a student to talk for 17 minutes with a student who has been ostracized or to hold a 17-second moment of silence to honor the 17 people killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Snowberger said student discussions about a walkout have occurred at Durango High School and also at the middle schools.

Survivors of the Florida shooting have been active since the shooting – holding rallies, being interviewed by national media and organizing a bus trip to the Florida State Capitol to meet with lawmakers to call for legal measures to end gun violence on school campuses.

Durango Police Chief Kamran Afzal said he plans to discuss the situation with Snowberger to provide additional security in Durango on March 14 – if it is warranted.

“Our job is to provide the safety we can, and I’m sure by then we’ll have a plan in place,” he said.

Snowberger said an organized community march is planned for March 24 to Rotary Park, which he suggested would give students a safer opportunity to make their voices heard.

Dr. Sarah Goodpastor, a member of the Durango chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and an internal medicine physician, said she supported Snowberger’s position, and she also encouraged students to participate in the March 24 event.

parmijo@durangoherald.com

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