By Jody Soja, Head of School

On Friday, April 20, at 10:00 a.m., a group of Middle and Upper School students walked out of their classes and assembled in the Front Circle of our Upper Campus at IMS.

In acknowledgment of the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, and in the wake of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, they marched down Indian Mountain Road carrying signs with messages related to the national movement to end gun violence before assembling in the Student Center.

This entirely student-led demonstration began with a moment of silence for children who have lost their lives because of gun violence or suicide. Student leaders then addressed their audience with prepared speeches and a series of musical performances. Snacks were sold to benefit the families of the 17 people who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting. At 11:30 a.m. student demonstrators took a picture with the mountain as their backdrop before returning to class.

We recognize that not all students share the same perspectives on this matter. And so, faculty provided supervision and continued to teach their regularly-scheduled courses for students who chose to remain in class. At IMS, we strive to provide community members with a space that is inclusive and inviting of diverse ideologies and points of view.

As I think about our school and our students on a day like today, I can’t help but consider our new strategic plan, Courage to Climb, and all the ways that our mission, our core values, our strategic priorities, and our portrait of an Indian Mountain student affirm our work and guide us as educators. Whether our Upper School students chose to protest or not, they demonstrated courage in making their choice. They acted with honesty, compassion, and respect; they used our community as a classroom; and, they exhibited that they are curious, globally aware, collaborative, adaptable, and purposeful. Today is a day that epitomizes what it means to teach for relevance and purpose, and it makes me feel grateful that I am an educator.

One of the ways we best prepare our students for the future is to encourage open and respectful dialogue in a community of learners. While students planned, participated, opposed, and engaged in this activity, they had to identify their own points of view and acknowledge that not all people agree. This is a powerful lesson and one that I believe is transformative for students at this age.

I am quite hopeful for our future. I am hopeful because of what I am seeing from not only our own students but from students all across the country. They are engaging in and learning about the very democratic process upon which our country was built, and they are advocating for a better future.