On February 14 of this year, at Stoneman Douglas High School, located in Parkland, Florida, a mass school shooting occurred. The perpetrator, Nikolas Cruz, ex-student, killed seventeen students and staff from the age range of 14 to 49. Seventeen more were wounded. In response to this act, staff, families, and the community started the advocacy group, Never Again MSD, led by the students and victims themselves. Due to the tragedy these students experienced, they now call for stricter gun control in the United States, and follow up this movement with hashtags such as #NeverAgain, and #Enough.
These same students, eager to make a change in the government, scheduled a nationwide school walkout, exactly one month later (March 14, 2018), to honor those who died in the shooting. The walkouts began at 10:00 respectfully for each time zone, and involved thousands of students as a whole. The initial walkout lasted for 17 minutes to honor 17 lives, however, many decided to march for more. Snapchat, a social media application, spotlighted the event on its location widget, ‘Snap Map’. There, over 150 million people were able to see the public ‘stories’ from school walkouts across the nation, and how they spent their 17 minutes of tribute. Nassim Guetiteni, a junior at Upper Merion, was able to utilize social media to spread the word of the walkout. He stated. “I just started using Instagram, Twitter, and my livestreaming to speak my mind on this important issue … I really tried my best to spread the word of Parkland victims and what they stood for.”
Students in Washington DC and the surrounding areas marched to both the White House and Capitol Hill. On the capitol lawn, 7,000 pairs of children’s shoes were laid down in tribute to every American student killed due to gun violence in the last 6 years. In lower Manhattan, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo was found lying in the street with a multitude of others, calling it a ‘die-in’. Many protesters collected at the Trump International Hotel and Tower to express their thoughts on gun control towards a business owned by the President himself. At Stoneman Douglas High, students gathered at the football field. These nationwide school walkouts also inspired many from past school shootings, such as Colorado’s Columbine High School, to speak on and walk out to what they believe the government should take action on.
Even Upper Merion itself, both middle school and high school, participated in the nationwide school walkout. Students gathered around the football field and track, standing in silence for those 17 minutes. Amanda Haak, a junior, was spirited on the subject when interviewed. She noted, “[Before,] the rest remained bystanders … The walkout for me was a way of saying, ‘These grievances will not be forgotten’”. Jack Briggs, a sophomore, was another one of the students who lead the walkout. He told the Viking Call, “It was nice to see how our school can stand up along with the Middle School … we felt we had to do something more than just ‘thoughts and prayers’”.
While some students viewed the walkout as an important event, others sit against it. A multitude of students did not participate in the walkout, also willing to speak their point of view on the matter. Nathan Jordan, a sophomore at UM, disagrees with the protests and school walkouts against gun control. In an interview Nathan stated, “I would have to disagree with [the protest]. I feel the best way to come together would be to have a walk up day … You ask how their day is going to make sure they are in a healthy state of mind.” Charles Cole, senior, is one who has a similar point of view on the subject. He told the Viking Call, “It represented politics I don’t support. I don’t agree with the politics of the organization that ran the nationwide event.”
While Upper Merion was not giving consequences to those who participated in the walkout, other school districts heavily disapproved. For example, Sayreville, a public school district in New Jersey, punished students who took part in the walkout. The school district claimed that it was not going to be a peaceful protest, rather a risk to school safety. While the officials did threaten discipline through multiple days of out-of-school suspension, the end result was a district wide call for dozens of Saturday detentions. Emily Briggs, a leader in the walkout for Upper Merion, felt that this was the wrong thing to do. She noted, “I think it’s terrible schools would suspend students … especially when those opinions are about the safety of the very schools who are suspending them. We [Upper Merion students] are very lucky that our school let us do the walkout without any punishment for the students participating.”
While there are indeed many different views on the school walkouts and the theme of the Stoneman Douglas mass school shooting, the same organizations are planning another large nationwide walkout for tribute on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
April Issue 2018