Parents claim Glenfield students threatened with detention over walkout
By ERIN ROLL
Several Glenfield parents are alleging their children were threatened with detention for participating in last week’s walkout, an allegation the district denies.
The March 14 walkout saw students across the country, including Montclair, walk out of school buildings for 17 minutes as a show of support for the 17 victims and the survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said the school officials never threatened the students with disciplinary action and no students were given detention for participating in the walkout.
“Students were not threatened with disciplinary action whatsoever. As a matter of fact, students were told that there would be no disciplinary actions if they chose to participate in the walkout. There was no talk of detentions for the walkout,” said Pinsak.
The day after the walkout however, a number of Glenfield parents took to social media voicing concerns about the school administration’s handling of the walkout. Some said students were told going out the front door would be dangerous, while two parents posted on Facebook that the students had been told there was a risk of getting shot if the walkout was held in front of the school.
Glenfield sixth-grader parent Gina Shaw said the school attempted to direct students out into a courtyard behind the school for a 17-minute silent protest.
However, a group of students went out the front door and gathered in front of the building during the walkout.
Shaw contends there were threats of detention made. Her daughter and some friends had tried to go out the front door for the walkout, only to be blocked by Glenfield Principal Dr. Joseph Putrino, Shaw said. In the end, her daughter decided not to participate in the walkout.
“I’m disappointed that it didn’t receive more support from the administration,” Shaw said. The idea of a silent protest out of view of the general public was ineffective in her view.
Pinsak said Dr. Putrino did encourage students to go out to the enclosed courtyard, as that’s where security had been set up.
In a letter sent home to Glenfeild parents on March 12, parents were told that students would be discouraged from leaving the building. “However ....Glenfield students and the administration have designed a safe and secure process for those students who choose to participate.... staff and security aides will be strategically stationed to provide a safe environment for all. If students leave the building they must remain on school property,” Putrino wrote.
“I am not going to pretend that we didn’t have safety concerns for our students, but all principals agreed that they wanted to support the decisions that students made as best they could,” said Pinsak.
As of Thursday afternoon, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Jersey had not received any complaints regarding the Montclair school district, according to spokesperson Elyla Huerta.
Some school districts around the country have threatened to bring disciplinary action against students who participated in a walkout.
The ACLU has several resources posted on its Website for students who have been threatened with detention, suspension or other disciplinary action for participating in the walkout.
“Because the law in most places requires students to go to school, schools can discipline you for missing class. But what they can’t do is discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action,” the ACLU says in its advice section for students.
Additionally, several colleges and universities announced in the weeks before the walkout that if any high school seniors who had been accepted were disciplined, the schools’ disciplinary action would not affect the students’ admission status.