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School board discusses safety, student activism



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Bloomington resident Jim Billingsley speaks at Tuesday night’s board meeting. Billingsley said he was concerned about schools who support student walkouts and the politicization of the recent mass shootings which have plagued the nation. Matt Begala Buy Photos

School safety continued to be a topic of interest Tuesday night at the Monroe County Community School Corporation monthly board meeting. Superintendent Judith DeMuth said some district policies will be modified and improving safety is an ongoing process.

“If anyone has all the answers, they’re not telling the truth,” DeMuth said. “We’re all learning on this.”

After multiple meetings to discuss safety in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, one change MCCSC adopted is stopping visitors from entering school buildings during passing periods when students are in the hallways. Visitors will be allowed in once students are back in their classrooms. 

Most schools have a two-door front entry system to better filter visitors, and the district is planning to continue its efforts to limit the points of entry to schools during the school day.

Interior doors will also now remain locked during the day, so doors can be secured quickly in an emergency.

During board comments, some members commended student participation in demonstrations in Bloomington and across the country.

Forty-six students from MCCSC traveled to Washington D.C. over the weekend to participate in the March for Our Lives, and others participated in similar marches in Indianapolis and Bloomington. 

“Regardless of how you feel about what they did, you have to take your hat off,” board member Jeannine Butler said. “Those kids believe in something.”

Board Secretary Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer echoed Butler’s sentiments and especially recognized the Florida students’ choice to elevate the voices of people of color and other minorities during discussions of gun violence.

Board Vice President Lois Sabo-Skelton highlighted the call from students for everyone to vote.

“The most important thing you can do is vote,” Sabo-Skelton said. “Many students had different views on things, but one thing is for certain: you must vote."

However, during the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting, one community member took issue with student activism.

Jim Billingsley, who lives in southern Monroe County, said he has sadness for the loss of life in Parkland, but he said he is “deeply disturbed” by how students have “politicalized” the tragedy.

He also spoke about the upcoming student walkout planned for April 20.

“I want to remind the board if it makes exceptions to allow students out of school for that political cause, you’ll have to open that up to other political causes,” Billingsley said.

MCCSC spokesman Andrew Clampitt said Bloomington High School South Principal Mark Fletcher wrote a letter advising students on how to safely walkout on April 20, if they choose to do so. 

Clampitt said students are encouraged to go to the football stadium for the planned moment of silence and solidarity. Advice for walkouts at Bloomington High School North will come soon, he said. 

“We empower our students,” Clampitt said. “Empowerment is one our core values.”

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