Involving 5-year-olds in walkout showed poor judgment

Teachers showed poor judgment in marching a group of kindergartners outside the Harbor School in New London on Wednesday at the same time high school students nationwide were walking out of their classes to demand action on gun violence and school safety.

The teachers wanted to include the 5-year-olds in a part of history. And as they waved to passersby, the children probably served as a reminder of what is at stake if society can’t stop these mass shootings.

The problem is that their adult leaders turned the two-dozen kindergarten students into props. Unlike their high school counterparts, these children can’t be expected to understand, and should not be thinking about, the debate over how to reduce the chances of more school slaughters.

The outing was described to students as a “safety walk” and, reportedly, no one touched upon gun control. The students chanted, “We love school.”

But the timing suggested solidarity with the gun-control tenor of the high school walkouts. It was inappropriate to involve the children in what was essentially a political cause.

The 17-minute high school walkouts came one month after a shooting at a Parkland, Fla. high school, which left 14 students and three staff members murdered.

Would it be appropriate for pro-life public school teachers to march 5-year-olds outside schools on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision to promote the protection of young life? Or for teachers opposed to a U.S. military intervention to do likewise? The answer, most would agree, is no.

Some contend the action placed the children at risk. That is overblown. The students, their teachers and chaperones never left the grounds. Recess takes children outside, too. If someone were looking to create mayhem, he or she would have been targeting one of those high school walkouts.

Harbor School Principal Jason Foster supposedly did not know about the plans in advance. Board of Education member Jason Catala has said Foster was derelict in his duties and called for the principal’s resignation.

Catala’s actions were also inappropriate. It is within Catala’s role as a board member to express why he is upset, to demand information, to share his concerns with interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy and to consider policy changes.

But it is the job of the superintendent, not board members, to deal with staff.

Tracy appears inclined to view it as a lesson learned and move on. That’s not a bad inclination.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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