MANHATTAN BEACH – Students and parents from all different schools in Brooklyn walked out for at least 17 minutes yesterday to remember the lives of the Parkland victims. But it was an entirely different scenario outside P.S. 195 The Manhattan Beach School.
A mother and son stood alone.
On March 8, Alisa Minyukova had gotten a letter sent home by the Department of Education (DOE) informing her (and other parents) of a walkout. It was a letter written by DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña, saying, “While we support students participating in civic engagement and exercising of their First Amendment rights, we also want to remind you of our attendance procedures, and inform you of additional measures the New York City Department of Education will be taking to help ensure the safety of students and staff members.”
A few days had passed and Minyukova, who grew up on the Lower East Side, wondered why there wasn’t any reaction to the letter. On March 14, she called the school letting it know she was picking up her 6-year-old son, Innokenti Vascenko, at 10 am to walk out. When she arrived, the principal and security guard greeted her and took her to a designated area outside the school.
Minyukova tells BKLYNER that there were a few teachers that were standing inside letting her know they were happy she was participating in the walkout, so Minyukova asked them to join her and her son, to which those teachers replied, “We can’t. We’re not allowed to leave the school.”
Minyukova then asked the teachers to at least take a photo of her and Innokenti, to which they replied, they “are not allowed to do anything,” including being in a picture, taking a picture, or being outside.
“We were there alone,” Minyukova said. “It was a lonely and sad scene.”
According to the DOE, teachers were not permitted to participate because it would be a violation of DOE policy and conflict of interest.
Minyukova told us that the school normally sends two or three emails a day for various events. But this walkout was not promoted at all, besides the letter.
The DOE tells us that the walkouts were not school facilitated, they were student-led, which is why the school did not “promote” it.
When we asked if the walkout was worth it, she replied: “For many, many reasons yes.”
Minyukova realized exactly how divided the Russian community in Brighton Beach is. She said that despite being Russian herself, she is an outsider, as she is not a Republican.
“Why are these Russians against gun reform?” she said. “I don’t understand it. They say things like, ‘Everyone is entitled to their opinion,’ as if that is a conversation. I’m just saying WAKE UP.”
“I now realize where I am and it’s terrifying.”
She tells us that she feels disappointed in her community, because “either they feel their voice does not mean anything, or the other version is their children are too young to understand.”
On Tuesday, March 13 (the evening before the walkout) the Parent Teacher Association at P.S. 195 posted this in its Facebook group: “For parents who have been inquiring, P.S. 195 will not be participating in the National Walkout tomorrow. Since our children are relatively young and each family discloses and discusses recent events as they see fit for their child, it was decided that we will not be walking out as a school group. However, parents who wish to participate and have their child participate may sign out their children at that time, observe the 17 minutes outside the school building, then return to school for the rest of the day.”
Minyukova believes that it is ultimately up to the children to resolve the issue of gun violence, as they are the ones who go through shooting drills. But it is up to the parents to support them, and “anyone who is not supporting is contributing to the problem.”
“[T]his one was for every single mother who lost her baby to this s***.”