Peaceful protest has been a hot commodity in the country, and students in Greater Pittston did their part in participating in it.
Students in the Pittston Area and Wyoming Area school districts participated in National Walk Out Day on March 14, a day in which students in schools all over the country walked out of classrooms to protest school shootings.
This event comes on the heels of the shooting that occurred in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14 in which 17 people lost their lives.
Students left their classes for 17 minutes to represent the 17 students.
Janet Serino, superintendent of the Wyoming Area School District, said the walkout was organized by both the students and faculty.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time with students this year trying to find out what they think,” Serino said. “In the conversations, we certainly had discussed the possibility of students walking across the nation. Being aware of this, we talked to students to see what could work. We brainstormed on what we thought would work best, and it was find sound in silence.”
Students and faculty exited the building at 10 a.m, formed a permiter around the school, held hands and stood in silence for 17 minutes.
In an interview with the Times Leader, Student Council Vice President Olivia Bellanco, 17, said it was important to get involved.
“I think it’s important we get involved, especially in our area that isn’t so active,” she said. “It’s something very near and dear to our hearts because the victims were so close to our age.”
According to Kevin Booth, Pittston Area School District superintendent, about 25 students walked out of class there but did not leave the building.
“We didn’t have anybody leave the building from a safety perspective,” he said. “We didn’t physically stop anybody. We talked to our local Jenkins Township police to make sure they’d be in the area just in case. It wasn’t a big, massive walkout.”
Unlike Wyoming Area where it was planned, Booth noted there was no formal plan at Pittston Area for students to walk out, but administration and faculty elected not to get involved with the students and let the events play out.
“We were going to let it play out as best we could, but we’re aways trying to keep safety at the forefront,” He said. “We’re not going to stifle (the students’) expression of feelings.”
Rumors circulated that those who participated in the walkout at Pittston Area would face consequences, but principal Dr. John Hass said that wasn’t the case.
“We decided to go opposite of consequences and let it go,” Haas said. “We didn’t say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to it and it was all about how it was handled by our students. Our stance was we weren’t encouraging walkouts, or discouraging them. We did do something to acknowledge the students in Florida.”
Coinciding with National Walkout was National Walk Up, in which students performed random acts of kindness for their classmates and peers.
Pittston Area students were rewarded for their efforts.
“Our teachers (voted) on acts of kindness and gave out Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards to students,” Haas said.
Wyoming Area High School students participated by placing sticky notes on lockers throughout the Secondary Center which read things like “You matter” and “Be strong.”
“The post-it notes were the idea of a teacher who thought it’d be a good idea,” Serino said. “I saw reactions of students walking through the halls and seeing them light up at the sight of these notes was amazing.”
The teacher who came up with the idea was secondary math teacher Paula Cecil.
“I’d seen it somewhere on the news or on social media a while back as a way that schools who are overcoming some sort of tragedy, they were welcoming students back with this technique where they put note son all the lockers,” Cecil said.
She said her students put noted on about 90-percent of the school’s lockers, and students in all grade levels participated.
“My students were really excited,” Cecil said. “I started this out with the seventh and eighth graders and this went all the way up to 12th grade. Every student, no matter how old they are, was really excited to be part of this and they took ownership of this themselves.”
Haas said he’d like to see students do more than just walk out of class or perform random acts of kindness.
“I want to see them take action by writing to congress and work to get something done with it,” he said. “A walkout is great to show support, but I think our kids want to see change and make a difference in a positive way. Overall, the intentions of this are what are they walking out for. I’m more looking at their intentions and I want them to stand up in what they believe in.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher