TPS Allows Students To 'Walkout' Following Betty Shelby Trial

Thursday, May 18th 2017, 8:50 pm

One day after the Betty Shelby verdict was read, Tulsa Public Schools students attended their last day before summer break.

District leaders said they had a plan in place in case emotions ran high after the trial. They provided students plenty of options to voice their opinions or to talk to someone.

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"We knew that we needed to get ahead of it," said Ebony Johnson with Student and Family Support Services.

High school students could participate in a walkout in response to Shelby's not guilty verdict if they wanted Thursday.

TPS said teachers would be supportive and talk about their First Amendment rights.

"On either side of the situation, the emotions were gonna run high, and we knew that. We never want to keep students from having the ability to be expressive in a positive and constructive way," Johnson said.

She said the district didn't encourage students to protest, and added that if a student just wanted someone to talk to, local church leaders and community members were standing by.

"Church members are not going in to hold hands and pray with students or to conduct any type of bible study,” Johnson said. “They're actually merely just going in to be a presence and be a positive person for students to talk to at their time of need"

Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist posted on Facebook saying, in part:

"Anyone who spends time with children can tell you that kids are always watching adults to gauge how best to understand the world. Even as we struggle with the discomfort of confronting issues around race, justice, and equity, we must set the best example possible for our kids."

TPS said the resources won't stop during summer break - students and parents can contact the district if they feel they need someone to talk to.