New London Kindergartners Walkout Drums Up Concerns - NBC Connecticut

New London Kindergartners Walkout Drums Up Concerns

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Kindergarten Walkout Raises Concerns

    New London Public Schools raised questions after not being informed about a kindergarten class walkout.

    (Published Friday, March 16, 2018)

    Students across the nation walked out of school Wednesday in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting last month, including a group of New London kindergarteners.

    "We love school! We love school," children in New London are chanting in a video posted on Facebook. 

    While people involved in the walkout involving a group of 5-year-olds at Harbor Elementary School said the demonstration was about school safety, student safety and parent permission have been called into question. 

    "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," one parent, Olga Vokolou, said.

    Vokolou, whose child participated, chaperoned what she called the "safety march" on school grounds. She said her child’s teacher let parents know on Facebook.

    "My opinion as a parent, they do shooting drills so we also want to make sure they know we’re going to keep their school safe," Vokolou said.

    New London Interim Superintendent Dr. Stephen Tracy said he didn’t have a problem with the safety message, but he and the principal didn’t know about the march ahead of time and there was no written permission from parents.

    "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," Tracy said.

    Another parent, Marlinda Robinson, said she didn’t know her kindergartner was participating in a march but said she didn’t have any issues with the message.

    "I would have liked to know, but not for the reason of what it stood for," Robinson said. "More because I just didn’t know."

    One student's grandmother, Helene Thomas, said she found out about the march through word-of-mouth. 

    The video drummed up some negative opinions from parents at the school.

    "It’s kind of a safety issue, too, to have the kids file out of the class in an organized manner," Sebastian Larrea, whose child is in pre-K and did not participate in the march, said.

    Harbor Elementary’s crossing guard Joyce Powers said she saw the children escorted in two lines by teachers who were carrying signs that read "enough."

    "I thought it was pushing it with that age group," Powers said. "I don’t think they understood what was actually happening."

    Tracy said he’s talked to the two 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," Tracy said.

    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.

    Catala also plans to take up the policies regarding field trips and leaving the building at the next Board of Education meeting.

    Tracy called it inappropriate for a member of the board to evaluate the performance of a school employee and hopes for an apology.

    Catala said there will be more to come out about this incident that he’s not at liberty to discuss at this time.

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