Message from SMC President Kathryn E. Jeffery on March 14 National School Walkout

The following message was sent by SMC President Kathryn E. Jeffery to college employees on March 9, 2018:

Dear SMC Colleagues:

A National School Walkout is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, March 14—in hundreds of schools across this nation—in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the February 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and many schools and colleges plan to demonstrate support for a student-led movement seeking stricter gun laws.

At Santa Monica College, this is a particularly poignant moment in history. We know firsthand the trauma survivors feel, and the unfillable void left in the lives of those who have lost their loved ones. In 2013, we lost two members of the SMC community, Carlos and Marcela Franco, and a longtime friend of the college, Margarita Gomez to a senseless tragedy involving gun violence. The memory of that day lingers with our college community.  Needless to say, our hearts ache for the victims and their families in Parkland, Florida, and for the dozens of other victims and survivors of such incidents locally and around the world.

I have heard that faculty members at community colleges across California are considering ways in which to honor the victims in Parkland and other places. While I know it is challenging to use class time for anything other than course content, I encourage SMC faculty colleagues to consider that our students may have strong and complicated feelings about the events and the current youth-led movement asking for change; some of them may even have been personally impacted. Suggestions have been made by faculty colleagues from other community colleges across California that there be 17 minutes of silence beginning at 10 a.m. on March 14 to honor the memory of the 17 students and teachers who lost their lives in Parkland. Please consider how you may exercise flexibility should your students choose to show solidarity with their K-12 counterparts by walking out or participating in any impromptu event on campus. Also, consider how you may use the 17 minutes—if you choose to not observe silence—by engaging students in a reflective discussion on gun violence. I have full confidence that you will be able to engender thoughtful debate and critical thinking around this crucial, heartbreaking issue.

I have heard that events are planned at several local schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District on March 14; these are for their students and community only and SMC students would not be allowed inside their campuses to participate. And our Associated Students is coordinating an event which will take place in the near future.

At Santa Monica College, the safety of our students and employees is our top priority and we continue to examine and reexamine—as well as implement—best practices in emergency preparedness. We certainly intend on maintaining—and heightening—the best possible level of safety planning and preparedness, especially through the work of the SMC Emergency Preparedness Committee and the Crisis Prevention Team. I encourage you to read this memo issued jointly by Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci (PDF) a couple days ago urging campuses and emergency management officials to review school safety procedures; it contains a link to state, federal, and local emergency preparedness resources of relevance to all of us.

In conclusion, I want to remind you of the resources Santa Monica College provides to students dealing with any kind of emotional or mental trauma: The Center for Wellness and Wellbeing provides a range of psychological services, including a 24/7 emotional support helpline (800) 691-6003. SMC employees can similarly avail of the free Employee Assistance Service for Education (EASE) Program.

Santa Monica College stands in solidarity with Parkland, Florida, and communities all across the nation affected by horrific gun violence. We join the many voices crying out for change as we—and our students—deserve a world that is safe.

Kathryn E. Jeffery, Ph.D.
Superintendent/President