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Letter is inaccurate; students were driving force behind walkout: Lori Suski

Posted 3/14/18


I read Matthew Krajsa’s letter to the editor posted on on Monday.

Mr. Krajsa references my letter to the Middletown Area School District community detailing …

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Letter is inaccurate; students were driving force behind walkout: Lori Suski


I read Matthew Krajsa’s letter to the editor posted on on Monday.

Mr. Krajsa references my letter to the Middletown Area School District community detailing the district’s participation in the National School Walkout on March 14.

While I respect Mr. Krajsa’s right to speak freely on any matter that he desires, there are a number of inaccuracies in Mr. Krajsa’s letter that I wish to note for the benefit of your readers. I would also direct readers to my letter which has been posted to the District website since March 8 (

Middletown Area School District is not interested in squelching the advocacy of its students. In order to fully understand the district’s involvement in how our students will participate in the National School Walkout, it is important to note that there is no constitutional right that allows students to walk out of class or disrupt an educational environment. That is why my letter notes that the plans developed by our students were approved by the administration. The district fully recognizes the rights of students to participate in other forms of advocacy on this or any other issue outside of the school setting.


READ MORE: Middletown Area School District leadership silences students on walkout: Letter to the Editor


The principals of the high school and the middle school consulted with their respective student leaders in order to understand how students wanted to participate in this movement during the school day. The principals listened to the ideas of the students and assisted them in figuring out the logistics. The high school and middle school principals contacted me after the plans were developed by the student leaders and approved at the building administration level. At my request, both principals then communicated the students’ plans to the school board at the public School Board Agenda Planning meeting on March 6 and I followed up with a letter to parents and community on March 7.

No input was provided by the school board or by me on how the students would participate in the National School Walkout. Accordingly, the inference that Mr. Krajsa makes that the advocacy efforts were somehow controlled by the school board or by me is inaccurate. My intent in writing the March 7 letter was to simply communicate with parents what the students had planned for March 14 and to address the potential parental concern for student safety in advance.

Mr. Krajsa infers that the specific ideas for participation were controlled by the administration or the school board. In my conversations with our building principals, I was told that the ideas came from our student leaders. One of our student leaders suggested that high school students should write a letter to Rep. Tom Mehaffie. One of our students suggested that a resolution be drafted that could be signed by the high school students and sent to Rep. Mehaffie. Those students would need to be asked if when making those suggestions they thought that Rep. Mehaffie would read them or do nothing with them. Having witnessed the passion with which students in our Youth & Government Club speak about legislative matters, I tend to believe that our students fully believe that Rep. Mehaffie would read their letters and consider their thoughts and ideas. Please note that Rep. Mehaffie is a resident of Middletown Area School District, so students often see and interact with him at school events and during student events at the Capitol.

Mr. Krajsa comments that the mandatory requirement to write a letter to Rep. Mehaffie in order to participate in the walkout at the high school was a futile exercise. The requirement to write the letter was not a decision forced upon the student body. Student leadership wanted to participate in the movement in an orderly manner and did not want to have students use the walkout just as a means to get out of class without any interest in what the movement is all about. Again, this was the recommendation of the student leadership, not the administration or the school board.

Mr. Krajsa states that I provided a template for the students to follow in my March 7 letter. I presume that Mr. Krajsa is referring to the sentence that says that the letter should be signed by the students followed by a statement that “my opinion matters.” This form of closing was what the student leaders asked to be written in all letters to further reinforce that their opinions are important. The content of the letters was not being dictated. The school district administration supports the student leaders’ desire to see letters signed with that statement because it is our belief that the opinion of our students should matter to our legislative body. In speaking with the high school principal, I learned that some students chose to include that statement in their letter and some did not. Nevertheless, all letters will be forwarded to Rep. Mehaffie whether that statement was included or not.

In my letter, I provided a parenthetical comment that the high school administration reserves the right to screen the student letters before they are mailed to ensure appropriate content. Mr. Krajsa views this as a form of censorship. The potential screening by the high school administration is for the reason that I provided in my letter — to ensure appropriate content. In my conversation with the high school principal, his desire to reserve the right to screen the letters was to provide an opportunity for the principal to speak with any student that used inappropriate language and counsel that student about the type of language that is appropriate when communicating in a formal manner to a public official. If inappropriate language were used, the high school administration intended to ask whether that language was necessary in order to convey the intended message.

Mr. Krajsa mentions gun control in his letter and that may be a focus of the National School Walkout movement. I did not mention gun control in my March 7 letter, nor have the students in our middle school or high school focused on gun control. The students have made this movement about school safety and mental health. The students chose the focus. It was not dictated to them.

Mr. Krajsa asked several questions of Rep. Mehaffie in his editorial. He implied that I know the answers to those questions. I do not know the answers to those questions as I have not had conversations with Rep. Mehaffie about such matters. When I speak with Rep. Mehaffie it is to advocate for fair funding for our schools and to discuss other topics that are of interest to the operation of our school district such as property tax reform.

Mr. Krajsa questions my character when he stated that the school district’s plan of participation in the National School Walkout was to impress my “boss.” As earlier stated, my letter was written to communicate the decisions that were made by our students on how they wanted to participate in the National School Walkout. I took no action to impress anyone; rather, I believe that it is our students that have been impressive. That was also the consensus in the room when the students’ plans were shared at the school board meeting on March 6. While there were no members of the public in attendance, one teacher spoke up and said that the attitudes and the actions of the student body made her proud.

I am disappointed that Mr. Krajsa has taken what our student body intended to be an expression of support for safety in our schools and the need for increased mental health supports for students and turned it into a political issue about Rep. Mehaffie. I do not believe that our students had any such intent when they made the choices they did for participation in the National School Walkout.

I hope this serves to correct any misunderstanding that may have existed. In closing, I would have welcomed the opportunity to address Mr. Krajsa’s questions or concerns with him had he chosen to contact me directly instead of communicating in this manner, as I pride myself on being available to the school district community.

Lori A. Suski is superintendent of the Middletown Area School District.