Mayor Mitchell Says He Supports New Bedford Students in Stand Against Gun Violence
With New Bedford Schools having the day off today following Tuesday's snowstorm, a planned remembrance ceremony for the victims of the Parkland, Florida school shooting was postponed.
The ceremony was to include students at New Bedford High walking out to an athletic field and forming the number 17, to honor the 17 victims in Parkland.
In his weekly appearance on WBSM, Mayor Jon Mitchell said he's in support of the planned ceremonies, and took issue with it being characterized as a "walkout" like other schools were planning for Wednesday.
"Other schools, there is a walkout of school, period. We didn't want that in New Bedford, and the kids didn't want to do that," he said. "I think they struck the appropriate balance between making a statement about school safety, and just plain leaving school."
Mitchell disputed host Barry Richard's suggestion that the students were being influenced by any political groups.
"It's pathetic that we live in a society where we have 17 kids slaughtered in high school, and the elected leaders, especially in Washington, don't do anything about it," Mitchell said. "Wherever you stand on gun issues or mental health, there is sclerosis in Washington, and I think it's great there are kids who are willing to stand up and say something about it. A lot of this is coming from students, not from adults saying, 'Hey kids, let's go make a political statement.'"
"At New Bedford High School, the high school in our school district of which I am chair, there are students that came forward," Mitchell said. "I have no idea who those people (in the groups Richard mentioned) are. All I know is at New Bedford High School, there are kids who came forward and said we should do this."
"We spend time lamenting how young people are so checked out of politics these days, and here it is that they're actually motivated to do something, and that's a good thing," Mitchell said.
"As a parent and a taxpayer, I'd rather have the kids stay in school and learn math," Richard said.
"As a parent of students and a taxpayer and as mayor, I think it's great that kids are standing up and saying, 'You know what, this stuff shouldn't be tolerated in American society,'" Mitchell countered. "If that entails the loss of a single hour of school, to my mind, that's not a huge cost to pay."
"Then why not do it after school?" Richard asked.
"Because it wouldn't get the attention by the public, by people in the media. It's a bigger thing if it's a walkout of school, stopping the day and saying, 'time out.' It's a means of emphasizing the importance of doing something about a real problem, a persistent problem."
"I don't think an hour out of school is that big of a deal," said Mitchell, noting that New Bedford has longer school days than other districts. "I think the school department does a good job of making the most of the available learning time."
New Bedford Schools spokesman Arthur Motta tells WBSM News the remembrance ceremonies in city schools will be rescheduled.
Also, at Monday night's meeting of the New Bedford School Committee, it was announced that teachers and faculty would undergo mandatory "ALICE" training to deal with active shooter situations in schools. School Committee member John Oliveira also suggested having some sort of training for students as well, as a type of drill so they can practice what to do if such a scenario arises.
Callers asked Mitchell what he thought about Oliveira's idea of training students, and the mayor said he's not necessarily against it, but that "we need to see what the police department and educators have to say about what's appropriate."
"The faculty certainly needs to have the training, and they've been doing that in the school system. The kids, especially the younger ones, just need to learn to do what the teacher tells you to do (in those circumstances)," he said. "But the training of the faculty has to become regularized, it really has to be institutionalized, because the new reality now requires it."