Student-organized walkout is held to demand change


Mike Yang

On March 14, students left their classrooms to participate in the nationwide walkout. Pictured above is Eve Harari, reading the names of the Parkland victims.

Saige Gitlin, Staff Writer

On Feb. 14, seventeen students and teachers from Parkland, Florida had their lives abruptly taken away when a shooter opened fire in the hallways of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  This devastating event has once again heightened the nationwide argument regarding stricter gun control laws and has compelled many people to take action.  Students from all across the country have joined together to organize various school walkouts to commemorate those whose lives were lost and to raise awareness towards the necessity of gun control laws.  

The national walkout occurred on March 14 at 10:00 AM, exactly one month after the shooting  Students and teachers left schools for seventeen minutes to remember the seventeen who lost their lives.  Additionally, participants were encouraged to wear orange, which is the color that is associated with gun control advocacy.  

“If students across the country participate in a walk out, we can make a strong statement that we will no longer tolerate gun violence,” said senior Sarah Gottesman.  “It is important that we join together to commemorate the lives of the Parkland students and teachers and ensure that they will not be forgotten.”  

Despite the fact that countless people have supported and acknowledged the importance of this event, many school districts across the country have strongly opposed walking out.  Principals and administrators vowed to take disciplinary action against students who participated in the walkout, such as detention and suspension.  For example, Curtis Rhodes, a superintendent from Needville Texas,  proclaimed that students who participated in the walkout would be subjected to a three-day suspension even if they had a note from a parent.  Although superintendents such as Rhodes may be opposed to stricter gun control laws, they should not be allowed to impose these punishments on students who want to partake in peaceful protests.  

Many students opt out of protests for fear that colleges will rescind their acceptances if they participate in walkouts.  Thankfully, many universities have issued official statements in which they share their support with the walkout participants and promise that they will not hold it against them.  For example, at Yale University, the admissions blog noted that “I, for one, will be cheering these students on from New Haven.”  Students already base so many of their decisions on college admissions, so it is reassuring to know that participating in a meaningful protest will not prevent students from receiving a college education.  

“I don’t think that administrators and college advisors should be allowed to reprimand students who participate in the walkout,” said junior Emma Klein.  “It is their right to protest in a peaceful manner and they are supporting an important cause.”  

In fact, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) students cannot be subjected to harsher punishments due to the content of their protest.  Many of the administrators who have threatened students who plan on walking out have made these punishments harsher due to the nature of the protest and its alliance with gun control advocacy, stating that this connection makes their actions illegal.  

School is a place where students should learn how to express their views and advocate for what they believe.  However, it is difficult for schools to create this space for advocacy, as we saw in our own school.  In the United States, public schools are not legally permitted to take a religious or political stance, such as advocating for gun control. This has made it difficult for Schreiber administrators to find a common ground and compromise with students who wished to participate in the walkout.  As opposed to other school districts which have strictly opposed the movement by threatening students with punishments, in an attempt to support students, Schreiber became involved in a more indirect manner.  The support was shown by planning a school memorial service that focused primarily on remembering the lives of the Parkland students and teachers instead of addressing the issues of gun control.  

“While I think we all do appreciate the support from our school to take part in this event, the walkout is meant to be run by students.  It should be more than a memorial,” said senior Eve Harari. 

Without allowing political identities to divide students, the walkouts were designed to bring about change.  They were meant to stop the ever-repeating cycle that follows a school shooting: school shooting occurs, people talk about it for about two weeks, and then we forget.  By neglecting the gun-control aspect of the protest and simply memorializing those whose lives were lost, we are not taking the necessary actions to invoke change.  

When the school tried to take on this protest in a non-political manner, it took away the deeper meaning behind the walkout.  This is why students chose to not take part in the school-organized memorial service.  Fortunately, the administration was extremely flexible and changed their plans after hearing students’ opinions on the matter.

“I loved that the school was supportive enough to allow the students to change the plan from a memorial to an entirely student-run walkout.  This way, we could take our part in the nationwide movement while still honoring the lives of the victims,” said senior Celia Christake. 

Peaceful protest is a meaningful and effective way to bring attention to the necessity for gun control and to honor the lives of the Parkland victims.  No school should punish their students for taking part in this nationwide event, and should instead be proud that they are becoming active political members of society, regardless of personal political beliefs.