RI education commissioner: Use student gun protests as ‘teachable moment’

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner is urging school districts around the state to use next week’s planned student protests as a “teachable moment,” but stopped short of endorsing the idea of students walking out of school.

In his weekly field memo to educators, Wagner said it’s important to recognize the importance of student voice, but suggested that they “incorporate these important discussions into your school community rather than lose instructional time and raise additional safety concerns.”

“This is a teachable moment for both students and adults,” Wagner wrote. “Harness that. Engage with our students. Engage with their parents and families. Engage with each other. Help our young people act responsibly, balancing two important public goods – the good that comes when we advocate on important issues; and the good that comes when students and teachers teach and learn together in the safety of their school community.”

Students across the country have said they plan to walk out of school on March 14 in an attempt to convince state and federal lawmakers to approve gun control legislation. Gov. Gina Raimondo told Eyewitness News last week her middle-school-aged daughter intends to participate in the local walkout.

Similar to his past positions on organized walkouts, Wagner said it’s up to the local school districts to decide how they intend to handle the protests. He said districts should “work with the members of their school communities to support student voice safely and with an emphasis on this as a teaching and learning opportunity for all.”

“I have no doubt that, working together, Rhode Island educators and students will find this balance and make the most of this unique and important moment,” Wagner said.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan