(Des Moines, IA) After the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL student protests and walkout calling for gun control have been planned and held nationwide. A student walkout at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, IA organized by the school’s Young Feminists’ Club is planned for Thursday morning during “Rider Time,” an advisory period held during the school day, as not to disrupt academic classes.
A credible, verified source told Caffeinated Thoughts that the student protest was promoted by Michael Shaw, a teacher at the school, via the school’s PA system on Wednesday morning along with a call for students and teachers to call their elected representatives to change gun laws and mental health approaches.
Shaw teaches psychology and history at Roosevelt and has taught there, according to his LinkedIn page, since 2008. He also coaches girls tennis at the school.
Shaw has participated in student protests before at Roosevelt. In 2016, when then-student Tyrone Jones organized a student walk-out protesting racial injustice and police shootings, WHO-TV reported that Shawn and one of his classes’ handed out bracelets to students that read “unity in diversity.”
That walkout occurred 30 minutes before the school day ended.
At the time of publication, Shaw had not returned Caffeinated Thoughts’ request for comment.
Philip Roeder, a spokesman for Des Moines Public Schools, was not aware of the specific announcement but said that activities by student groups are a regular part of school announcements.
He was aware of the planned walk-out.
“While this is a student-organized protest, we respect our students for speaking out on issues that are important to them and, in this particular instance, that they are doing so in a manner as to not interrupt the day’s academic classes,” Roeder said in an email to Caffeinated Thoughts.
Kevin Biggs, the principal at Roosevelt High School, also stated that the walk-out is not school sponsored, but the political nature of the announcement was inappropriate.
“It was not appropriate to make a political statement on the PA. I have spoken to the teacher who made these remarks and advised him of this error. This is not a school sponsored walkout, just one that we are trying to prepare for,” Biggs told Caffeinated Thoughts in an email early Wednesday afternoon.
Biggs sent out an email to staff instructing them to allow students to leave during Rider Time for the walk-out, but not to verbally engage the students if they do so.
“As teachers, I ask that you keep your personal and political opinions to yourself at this time,” he wrote.
He also instructed teachers to remain in their classrooms to support students who choose not to walk out. He said that students who do not arrive at Rider Time should be marked absent. He also stated that teachers whose entire class has walked out are free to go outside to provide supervisory support.
It is uncertain if other area high schools will join Roosevelt for Thursday’s walkout.