Waukesha mother promoting walkouts in response to Florida High School shooting

WAUKESHA -- In the aftermath of the Parkland High School shooting in Florida, a Waukesha mother is promoting a national event asking students to walk out of their schools to try and make change. 

Tahra Loy was inspired seeing how the students in Florida stood up to demand change.

"As a parent, seeing these kids at Parkland stand up and say, 'this is enough. you guys can do better.' was really inspirational," Loy said. "It helped me because it's depressing as a parent to face this reality."

Loy has three children in the School District of Waukesha. In November, there was a scare of a man with a gun outside of her kids' elementary school. Someone had called police because they say they saw a man with a gun. Police never found anything but it's something that stuck with Loy. She hopes something can be done after Parkland because now, the next generation is getting involved. 

"Nothing is working," Loy said. "The same thing isn't working. Everything we've been doing since Columbine hasn't made a difference. We have more mass shootings than we had 20 years ago."

She saw a national movement asking students to walkout of class on March 14th. She created an event on Facebook to promote the same activity here but the School District of Waukesha had second thoughts. 

They sent her a cease & desist about using their name to promote the students walking out. 

"The School District of Waukesha has not sponsored or authorized this event nor are any of our district employees excused for this event. No district employee or non-district individual has been authorized to include the district in this event." -Superintendent Todd W. Gray

Loy says she never meant to offend the school or overstep any boundaries but hopes they understand her message.

"It's really not about the school district and it's not about law enforcement," Loy said. "The school district and law enforcement are doing a fabulous job of dealing with this issue. The whole point of this walkout is to bring more awareness so legislators get involved and, frankly, the young teenagers turning 18 this year and voting for the first time, they should have more of a say."

She understands not all students should participate in this event but this is an opportunity to educate and, more importantly to her, listen to the kid's concerns. 

"What I've suggested is the schools participate by letting the kids get involved," Loy said. "Maybe they can talk about what's scaring them. What do they think of all these drills? We make them go through lockdown drills, are they aware of why we're doing them?"

The School District of Waukesha sent a letter home to parents, warning of possible punishment should any students participate in the protest. 

"While we certainly understand everyone's grief and anxiety over the recent tragedy in Floriday, using the District's name without permission to advocate for students to violate school rules (a student walk out) is not appropriate." -Superintendent Todd W. Gray

"I'm not sure what they're so afraid of," Loy said. "A lot of people are saying, oh, you're encouraging kids to skip school. That's not the issue. Seventeen minutes out of a day could save people's lives, especially if you get kids engaged. If they step out of the classroom for 17 minutes in a responsible and respectful way, maybe they're going to be the next kid that stops the next mass shooting."

TODAY'S TMJ4 received the letter that was sent to parents regarding the walk-out. It reads:

Date: February 20, 2018
From: Superintendent Todd Gray
To: School District of Waukesha Parents

It has come to our attention that one or more individuals are hosting and/or promoting an event, National School Walkout on March 14, 2018 through the Womensmarch.com and Facebook, advertising that the “School District of Waukesha” or “Waukesha Area Schools” are participating or involved. This is not accurate. The District is not participating or involved in this event. We have requested the individual cease using our district name or referring to our
district for this event.

The School District of Waukesha has not sponsored or authorized this event nor are any of our district employees or students excused for this event. No district employee or non-district individual has been authorized to include the district or any similar reference to our schools for this event.

Board Policy #5720 states, “Students may not use obscenity, slanderous or libelous statements, or disruptive tactics, or advocate violation of the law or school regulations”. Participation in a walkout is disruptive and against school regulations, and will subject students to disciplinary measures.

While we certainly understand everyone’s grief and anxiety over the recent tragedy in Florida, using the District’s name without permission to advocate for students to violate school rules (astudent walk out) is not appropriate.

The School District of Waukesha also sent the following statement to TODAY'S TMJ4 on Wednesday. It reads: 

Date: February 21, 2018
To: Media Contacts
From: Terry Schuster
Director of Public Relations & Communication
Re: Waukesha Schools places student safety first

Statement from Todd Gray, Superintendent, School District of Waukesha:

“This is not at all about students. At no time have we said students cannot make a
statement peacefully while staying in school. This is about an outside organizer, not a Waukesha student-initiated event. No student or student organization has come forth to request participation. This is all promoted by non-district adults, without permission to use the district’s names or property.

“This is not about politics. We are trying to keep politics out of it. Participating in this event is a political action activity, which is prohibited by Board policy.”

Attached is a website ad where we requested of the adult organizer to eliminate any reference to Waukesha schools. The individual refused. Please note that not only has she continued to use Waukesha Public Schools, but she has also advertised the location for the event as school district property (707 W. College Ave). No permission has been requested or granted to use the District's name or similar name in support of this event. Nor has any permission been requested or granted
to use our property.

Upon the refusal to remove any reference to the district or our location from the our attorneys recommended informing parents that the district is not participating and that the organizers of the event did not have permission to use the district's name in promoting the event.

Approximately 95% of the students in the district are minors who are required to be in school when school is scheduled to be in session. We believe we have safe and secure schools.

We acknowledge that individuals have a right to demonstrate to support a cause. Therefore, if parents wish to excuse their children from school to attend such an event or demonstration, that is their right. However, students not excused must stay in school. The district will follow the established attendance procedures to address unexcused absences from school. Further, if students disrupt the learning environment for others, they will be addressed through our discipline
policies, as we expect that our students are learning in a safe, disruption free environment.

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