GHS staff, cops ‘redirect’ students

Gloversville High School Principal Richard Demallie’s Twitter account shows a police presence Wednesday during the national walkout planned to honor the 17 people who died in the Parkland, Fla. shooting one month ago. (Source: Twitter)

GLOVERSVILLE — While students across the country walked out of their schools Wednesday at 10 a.m. in protest against gun violence, students at Gloversville High School were prevented from participating by district officials posted at school exits, according to sources. School officials deny students were prevented from walking out.

A national movement called for students to walk out of their buildings for 17 minutes in remembrance of the 17 students and adults who were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and to highlight the need for improved school safety and gun control.

Locally, officials said they had not heard that students in the Gloversville Enlarged School District planned to walk out, but multiple sources said that high school staff, police and Mayor Dayton King were posted at school exits to prevent students from leaving the building to participate.

Gloversville High School Principal Richard Demallie posted pictures to Twitter of officers from the Gloversville Police Department and Mayor Dayton King in the high school Wednesday “during the student walk out time,” thanking them for their presence.

In his posts, Demallie thanked city police for being on hand to interact with students and helping to keep them safe. He went on to thank King for making himself available to talk to students “who walked out of class on how they can take action and who to contact.”

In a Tuesday post Demallie thanked student liaison members Yxlprm Burke, Brandon Becker, Carlos Matos, Courtney Quakenbush, Kristina Fosmire, Meredith Dennie, Nina Lomanto, Noah Batease, Reanna Stewart, Rebecca McCall and Rhea Winter for discussing school safety.

Thursday morning Demallie said that it was not true that students at the high school were prevented from exiting the building in observance of the walkout.

According to Demallie, city police were asked to be on hand in case students walked out to keep them safe while outside. Demallie went on to reference recent statements by Superintendent of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services Patrick Michel concerning student safety.

Michel previously raised concerns that a planned walkout by students at a specific time was a safety risk that could make them vulnerable to the threats they were attempting to protest.

Demallie said that he had given teachers a message to convey to students that they could face consequences if they walked out, encouraging the teachers to discuss the meaning of the day instead.

In recognition of the lives lost in Florida, Demallie said that the school had a moment of silence at 10 a.m. and rang 17 chimes for each person. Demallie said this was at the suggestion of the student liaison association that is comprised of two to three students from each grade level, the student Board of Education member and the student government association’s co-presidents.

King and city police officials could not be reached for comment today.

In a post to the Gloversville High School Facebook page Wednesday, former student Veronica Peck spoke out against school’s efforts to prevent students from walking out.

“Hey, not allowing kids to participate in a nationwide walkout in advocacy of their survival and common sense laws is really messed up, don’t restrict kids’ rights to express their views and participate in the political discourse. Blocking exit doors is a BIG no-no,” Peck’s post read.

When reached early this morning, the 2017 GHS graduate said that she heard from multiple friends and acquaintances who still attend the school that administrators blocked the exits at 10 a.m. Wednesday, preventing students from leaving.

She said that her friends who are still in the school wanted to participate in the walkout, but didn’t want to risk getting into trouble or getting locked out of the school on a cold day by doing so.

Peck added that the school did not adequately provide alternative activities for students to participate, sharing an email she received from her current school, the State University of New York at New Paltz, for comparison.

The email from the SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lorin Basden Arnold encouraged supervisors and instructors to allow students and staff members to participate in the walkout without facing negative consequences.

“Participation in such a peaceful remembrance of victims of gun violence is consistent with the values of SUNY New Paltz,” the email read.

The email also announced a rally and community forum planned on Wednesday by students, faculty and area organizations.

During the proposed walkout time, Demallie said that no students approached the exit to walk out and if they had they would have been directed to the auditorium where the mayor was prepared to host a discussion on school safety. Demallie said that no students went to the auditorium.

Demallie said that he had invited city police and King to the high school with the permissions of GESD Superintendent of Schools Robert DeLilli.

Demallie said that the walkout was a student-led movement that only a few GHS students had asked teachers about and no students approached administrators about participating.

DeLilli echoed Demallie’s statement Thursday saying, “at no time did an adult block an exit from a student.”

According to DeLilli, city police, students and staff were posted near exits in case students decided to walk out to offer them an alternative option through discussion in the auditorium and to offer safety measures if students still chose to walkout.

“The purpose of posting adults at the exits was to assist students in decision making,” DeLilli said. “What we did was prepare in case students did walk out.”

When asked how the walkout differed from times when students are allowed outside of the building for gym class or sporting events, Demallie said that those activities are supervised.

“When students leave the building for phys. ed. they are supervised by a teacher. For sporting events they are supervised by a coach. Walking out without supervision, that would be a safety concern,” Demallie said.

Both Demallie and DeLilli said that the cold weather also posed a concern.

Demallie noted that other schools in the area reacted to the walkout similarly and conversations with GESD students about school safety are ongoing. Demallie and Gloversville Police Department Chief Marc Porter held discussions with each grade level at the high school about school safety last week.

Demallie said that the school does not have any additional formal discussions with students planned, but said that he is always open to talking to students.

When asked if the school district planned to organize events surrounding the March for Our Lives on March 24 or the National Student Walkout on April 20, DeLilli said that there are no plans among administrators, but if GESD students were interested in participating, he would be open to discussion.

“If students would like to organize an educational event it would behoove them to talk to building administrators about it,” DeLilli said. “At this time there is no movement to do so.”

By Kerry Minor

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