EAGAN, Minn. – Parents of students attending public schools in Eagan are concerned for the safety of their children following the district’s handling of the National Walkout Day earlier this month.
On March 14, students across the country participated in a walkout in support of the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and to advocate for gun control legislation. Parents of students attending Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools were made aware of the school district’s plan to support the nationwide protests later that afternoon after the event had already happened, leaving many parents concerned and upset for the safety of their children.
Prior to the protests, parents received a vague email mentioning the possibility of a student protest and what the procedures would be if students chose to walk out. After the walkouts occurred, Dakota Hills Middle School principal Trevor Johnson, sent an email addressing the protests very ambiguously.
“Dear Dakota Hills Families,
Today at 10 AM some students at Dakota Hills walked out of classes. This was a nationally promoted protest in response to the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The protest was scheduled for 10 AM and was to last for 17 minutes.
Previously our school district created a message that was sent by school sites to parents regarding guidelines for student walkouts and protests.
At Dakota Hills, 10 AM is the passing time in between 2nd and 3rd-hour classes. We estimate that 300-400 students chose to participate in this walkout by not going to their 3rd-hour classes.
At all times, the students were in the presence of Dakota Hills staff. Students were channeled to locations in the front and back of the school where we felt we could monitor and safely attend to the student groups. DHMS staff and Eagan Police were present to ensure the safety of students.
The students were given 17 minutes.
The teaching and learning routine in DHMS classroom continued before, during, and after the protest.
The students were both respected, and respectful of how this event proceeded. When 10:17 AM arrived, the students were directed back to their 3rd-hour classes and did so in a calm manner. The remainder of our school day proceeded in a normal fashion.”
According to parent sources who wish to remain anonymous, students were far from respectful, calm, and safe during the walkout.
“My daughter was told by one of the protesters that there were kids running outside the building, shouting, chanting, venturing to hidden parts of the grounds by the woods, even one kid on the roof,” one parent told Alpha News. “Normally, I’d take the word of the adult over kids, but this principal has been contradicting himself in his communication and emails.”
However, what proved to be more unsettling than the emails were the school district ’s protest guidelines.
“Elementary school students are not allowed to leave school for a protest unless they are signed out by a parent in person,” the protest guideline reads. “Middle school students are allowed to leave school for a protest but are expected to stay on school grounds unless they are signed out by a parent in person. High school students are allowed to leave school for a protest, but the school will provide no supervision of high school students who leave school grounds for a protest.”
One parent also shared information on how the topic of the protest was addressed to students.
“On her way to bed, one of my daughters told me her teacher today promoted tomorrow’s ‘protest’ (not memorial) by asking the students to debate whether students should be allowed to protest on school grounds during the school day,” a parent told Alpha News.
“My daughter asked how they planned to keep the students safe when everyone will be coming and going all at once. Couldn’t someone slip away into the woods or someone else with bad intentions join the crowds on school grounds?” the parent added. “The teacher cut her off: ‘You don’t have to worry about any of that. This school district is very safe. You are safer here than anywhere else, including your own homes.’”
Despite attempts by teachers or the administration to quell concerns over school safety, the district’s handling of the walkouts has many parents concerned over the lack of security and transparency. Many high schools in Minnesota have strict policies regarding leaving the campus during school hours. For example, Wayzata High School and Maple Grove High School maintain a closed campus, while Minnetonka High School allows only their 12th-grade students to leave for lunch as long as they don’t have outstanding assignments and have parental consent. At Eagan’s schools, high school students are seemingly allowed to come and go as they please, and middle schoolers are allowed to leave the building, both without parental consent. The school’s disregard for its own policies regarding protests further highlighted the safety concerns of some parents.