After the fifth-graders’ protest made headlines, the Stevens Elementary camping trip has been rescheduled. But teachers, and some students, aren’t going.
When they found out their much-anticipated, three-day field trip had been canceled, the fifth-graders at Stevens Elementary did what any frustrated Seattleites would do: They staged a protest.
“What do we want?” “Camp!” “When do we want it?” “Now!” they chanted in late April as part of a “camp-in” outside their school.
The playground protesters have now been granted their wish. The annual fifth-grade camping trip to Camp Orkila in the San Juan Islands has been rescheduled for mid-June. But the fifth-grade teachers refuse to go, and after demonstrations on the playground, a camp-in and parent meetings, some students aren’t going, either.
“The students were able to see some changes effected from their activism, and that process was real positive,” parent Joy Southworth said. “But I felt conflicted when camp was rescheduled and learning that the teachers weren’t going to be going.”
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Instead, Principal Kelley Archer will be going on the trip, along with another Stevens staff member and a former Stevens teacher.
“I cannot tell you specifically why teachers are refusing to go, but I can tell you that I am working with the fifth-grade teachers to ensure that everyone has a safe and positive experience,” Archer wrote in an email to parents.
She did say there were “some major communication breakdowns” that made the fifth-grade teachers feel like they couldn’t go, as they had in years past. She cited what happened to Carol Burton, a Garfield High School choir teacher, as part of the context for why the teachers didn’t want to go. Burton was fired last August for breaking district rules on an overnight field trip to New Orleans in 2015, and was reinstated after a termination hearing.
Neither Archer, who is resigning at the end of the school year, nor the fifth-grade teachers responded to requests for comment.
Phyllis Campano, acting president of the Seattle teachers union, said the teachers did have concerns about safety, specifically student behavior, and they wanted to have more adults than the minimum requirement.
“It was about putting the right supports in place, like extra staffing (on the field trip),” Campano said. “The teachers felt the district didn’t do that.”
Parents said about a fifth of the students aren’t going either because of their own concerns about safety — or as a show of support for their teachers. Maia Laverty asked her son if he would like to go, and he said yes. She plans to go as a chaperone, but has wondered if she should, since the teachers aren’t going.
“Am I going to camp with kids that have something going on that I don’t know about?” she asked.
Archer and Assistant Principal Colleen Stump sent a letter in April saying the field trip was canceled because school staff had submitted incomplete paperwork, though parents and students suspected there were larger issues.
The fifth-grade teachers also said that wasn’t true, said Campano. “They said they had filled it out, all 30 pages,” she said.
Despite her doubts, parent Southworth said she’s still planning to go as a chaperone.
“It’s something my daughter has been looking forward to since kindergarten,” she said.