School Zone Safe Zone

Principal Stewart speaks about school policy pertaining to protest

Maria Hudson

The Parkland Shooting Memorial held for 17 minutes on the Rocklin High school campus was a spark for what has become an eruption of flame on a national scale.

With Mrs. Julianne Benzel returning from administrative leave was  a continuous buzz permeating throughout campus revolving around her numerous news appearances and on the whole, the walkout. One thing was for certain, people have very strong opinions about the event, as well as questions. How did the school become involved in the walkout? How much influence do they have on these kinds of events?

Principal Davis Stewart answered some of these in an interview with The Flash.  

“The way that we got involved is as a district we saw the protests that other schools were doing nationwide … and we decided to be proactive and figure out how we would respond as a district and it was really  left to each school site” he reflected, “… and for the lack of a better term, would allow those protests to take place without any penalty. If it evolved organically, that means from the students.”

“Three students approached [me]” and they “asked if they could do a memorial for the students … The number one priority for me as a principal for our assistant principals is to make sure we maintain a safe and positive learning environment. That’s our primary goal, for all students, in any situation, school safety has to be first, not just physical safety, but emotional safety, the safety to express your views, First Amendment rights.”

Some have been verbalizing that the administration made it clear the walkout was not to be political. No one speaking could use the word gun. When this was brought to Principal Stewart’s attention, he was quick to shake his head.

“We did not, we didn’t look at their speeches, we didn’t monitor that, we asked the morning of to know who the speakers were… we didn’t proof them. Again, our entire goal that morning was to manage a safe and secure campus.”

By this point in the conversation it was imminent that the matter of Benzel’s temporary leave was going to be mentioned. Especially after attracting national news casting attention, it seemed blatant that at least someone would come calling. There were indeed people calling and emailing in.

“…we have a chief of communications, Diana Capra, who does all the outside communication and she handles all this.”

He went on to stress that “If we had not set the time out for this, or if students were to leave campus and then be in an unsafe situation, if they were to assemble at Twin Oaks Park, then they would be out of our campus, a place where we knew they were safe and secure…What can we do here to allow this to happen and yet be hands off (was the question) … “

Stewart mentioned the matter of school safety and campus boundaries often. The administration takes many precautionary measures in times like these especially to ensure that all Rocklin students are safe, supported and thriving in a learning and growing environment.

Their general policy on things like Benzel’s in-class statements or the protest remains unclear. The district is unable to respond to most questions because it was a personnel matter.

Stewart says that the school technically cannot host a walkout, religious meeting, or anything similar. What they can do however, is take the necessary precautions to ensure whatever is happening on campus is safe.

“…there are religious groups that meet on campus” he gave as an example of this.  

He was not able to give specific information about the policy. The First Amendment rights of students here on campus are valued and as long as the administration has a way to keep students safe, students are allowed to voice their views.