The March 14th School Walkout: What You Should Know

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The March 14th School Walkout: What You Should Know

The Women's March encourages participation in the nationwide school walkout on March 14, 2018.

The Women's March encourages participation in the nationwide school walkout on March 14, 2018.

Women's March

The Women's March encourages participation in the nationwide school walkout on March 14, 2018.

Women's March

Women's March

The Women's March encourages participation in the nationwide school walkout on March 14, 2018.

Edan Larkin, Editor-in-Chief

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They say children are the future. And now children have risen to assume the title.

On February 14th, 2018, a tragic school shooting transpired at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen innocent individuals were murdered that day by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a man who was widely believed to be unsuited to own a gun.

Out of the ashes of tragedy, a strong group of Stoneman Douglas high schoolers has risen. This group proudly and fearlessly takes a stand in support of increased gun control.

As many students here at Hingham High have already begun to talk about, a walkout designed to express support for these students will occur at 10:00 am on March 14th. Why? Because the survivors of the Parkland shooting launched a movement meant to make Parkland the last mass shooting in America.

These teenagers went from regular students to nationally recognized activists in merely a few days. They have taken news stations, social media, and the entire country by storm. They have spoken at rallies, stood face-to-face with politicians, and demanded change. They are fighting for an America where students no longer fear that any regular school day could decide whether they live or die. They are determined to see an America where mass shootings no longer happen. They have declared “never again.”

One of the students advocating for gun control is senior Emma Gonzalez. At a televised rally in Fort Lauderdale on February 17th, 2018, Emma Gonzalez took the podium with powerful words.

TIME
Emma Gonzalez wiping away tears of grief during her speech at the Fort Lauderdale rally for gun control.

“Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving,” Gonzalez noted, referring to the various survivors and affected persons standing beside her. “But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see. Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed and the laws have not.”

The GOP has been directly addressed by these students on a number of occasions. The common argument that the politicians make in response is that gun control should not be the focus of this situation. President Trump continues to state that mental health is the larger issue at hand.

“We know that they are claiming mental health issues,” acknowledged Emma Gonzalez. “and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. [Cruz] would not have harmed that many students with a knife.”

Shooter Nikolas Cruz had been reported to the FBI on multiple occasions. His former classmates, peers, neighbors, and practically anyone who knew him described him as exactly the kind of person who would shoot up a school. No one was surprised when he did.

Could Nikolas Cruz have killed as many people as he did in the amount of time he did it with a knife? Not when his weapon was capable of firing off 400 rounds per minute. It’s true that murder is committed by people, not guns. But an AR-15 enables a much higher death toll.

Another solution offered by Trump is to arm all teachers. The GOP has taken the stance that school shootings are more a result of school security, rather than easy access to assault rifles. The concept of every teacher in every classroom in America possessing a gun at all times has raised a some concerns. Activists ask the question: how does adding more guns to the equation solve the problem?

Gonzalez’s classmate, 17-year-old David Hogg, also publicly called out lawmakers on their lack of action. Hogg has made the point that he does not wish to take away the right to own guns, but that he believes gun control is crucial.

CNN
David Hogg speaking with Dan Rather on CNN.

“We have a right to live just as we have a right to bear arms,” he said.

Seventeen year-old Cameron Kasky’s fearless activism showed itself at the CNN town hall on February 21st, 2018. Republican Marco Rubio agreed to appear at this town hall, a move that many respected him for because Rubio willingly entered a situation in which most of the people present explicitly disagreed with his beliefs.

At the town hall, Kasky politely addressed Marco Rubio and asked whether or not Rubio intended to continue to accept money from the National Rifle Association, or NRA, as Rubio has done in the past.

When Rubio did not directly answer the question, Kasky pointedly reiterated, “In the name of the 17 people who died, you can’t ask the NRA to keep their money?”

CNN
Cameron Kasky addressing Marco Rubio at the CNN town hall.

Also at this town hall, Fred Guttenberg, father of deceased victim 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, had his own thoughts to share with Rubio.

“Guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week,” Guttenberg deadpanned. “And look at me and tell me that you accept it and will work with us to do something about guns.”

To this, Rubio responded as he has consistently done–by stating that gun laws are not the solution to this problem.

As the town hall continued, Dana Loesch, the NRA’s spokesperson, had her chance to speak. Broward County sheriff Scott Israel shut her down quite quickly.

“You just told this group of people you’re standing up for them,” Israel pointed out. “You are not standing up for them until you say you want less weapons.”

Many of the students speaking out have been discredited by supporters of guns and the NRA with claims that they are simply too young to speak on politics. Some students, such as David Hogg, have even been accused of being crisis actors, an obviously false statement but no less damaging.

These children experienced a world of pain and then willingly subjected themselves to public scrutiny to advocate for what they believe in. They experienced the issue firsthand–there’s hardly anyone better to decide what should be done.

“…maybe the adults have gotten used to saying ‘it is what it is,’” Gonzalez declared at the Fort Lauderdale rally. “but if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case, if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something.”

Much of America is deeply touched, moved, and inspired by the bravery of the Parkland survivors. The voices of those affected have sparked a fire that is sweeping the nation.

Adults and children alike want to contribute to what activists are calling a revolution. That is why Women’s March organizers are helping to solidify this rising movement to put an end to school shootings by encouraging students, teachers, and allies to walk out of their schools on March 14th, 2018, at 10:00 am.

The walkout is designed to last 17 minutes–one minute for every victim of the Stoneman Douglas shooting.

This will not be the first walkout that has occurred in response to the shooting, but it is reaching a wider audience. The walkout will be a peaceful gesture of solidarity with the victims as well as a protest against the laws that are failing to keep Americans safe. The message of the walkout has dominated social media with the simple but telling “#ENOUGH.”

Gerald Herbert/AP
Survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting holding protest signs as they wait to board a bus.

Junior Molly Schwall is deeply inspired by the movement, and on a rather personal level, too. “I am doing it because I actually moved here from Parkland. My friend Cameron Kasky is one of the students who started the entire movement,” she explained.

“Just seeing my friends being the ones leading it…I think I’d be inspired even if I didn’t know the people leading it, but since I do know the leaders personally, it’s even more important to me to become involved. I think I would do it even if I didn’t know them, though.”

Many students are torn on whether or not they plan to participate in the protest. Some students are determined to do so regardless of the consequences, others are wary out of fear of disciplinary action, some do not know enough about the cause, and others are against it entirely.

“The reason I would do it is because… why wouldn’t you?” commented Hingham High junior Momo Kent.

“I’m not sure [if I’m participating],” Patrick Cronin, also a junior, shared. “It sounds like a good idea and a good message. But I’m not quite sure about the details.”

In regards to disciplinary action, that is a real issue for some students in schools across the nation. For example, the Needville Independent School District in Texas issued a warning on Facebook telling students that participation in the walkout will result in a three-day suspension, reported CNN.

In response to this, the American Civil Liberties Union issued statements informing students on their rights in this situation. “Here’s the gist:” the ACLU posted on Twitter, “Your school can punish you for missing class, just like they always can, but it can’t punish you more harshly for protesting than if you were missing class for another reason. #KnowYourRights.”

Further, even if a student were to be suspended for participating in the walkout, the punishment would not deter said student’s likelihood of getting accepted into a good college. A number of universities, including Brown, Duke, N.C. State, UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest University, and more, have assured prospective students that a suspension for participating in the walkout will not have any effect on their chances of attending those colleges.

Junior Nina Morris shared her opinions regarding disciplinary response to the walkout. “I don’t think any school administration should try to stop it or punish anyone for participating. That’s outrageous. We deserve to exercise our rights and stand up for what we believe in,” she said.

And, as for students here at Hingham High, participating is certainly an option. No school administration can encourage its students and staff walking out of class during the school day, but Hingham High is not looking to punish any students that wish to support the walkout and its message.

“I’m certainly open to the school’s participation in it and I’m hoping to speak with student leaders this week so we can decide if there’s a good vehicle for organizing,” spoke Principal Swanson. “Our district’s leadership has expressed support for it, so I am very much open to Hingham High School participating in some fashion, in what I’m sure will be a powerful day around the country.”

“My hope for it is that it will be not only to remember the victims of that awful tragedy but also a chance for our students to participate actively in a way that can affirm the power of civic action and standing up for what causes you believe in.”

The exact plan for what will happen during the 17 minutes is not entirely set in stone, but the general consensus as of yet is that students will walk out of school doors and onto the turf, where someone will read out the names of the victims. Then, everyone will stand in silence after reading a list of the victims names with brief statements about each victim, in order to pay respects to the victims and demonstrate that, sometimes, actions truly speak much louder than words.

“Yes, I am participating in the school walkout. I choose to do this because it’s a peaceful demonstration of demand for more action for gun control reform, which I personally support. Not only are we standing in solidarity with the students affected by the recent tragedy, but we are supporting a longstanding, valid argument in favor of safety in America’s schools,” senior Kyra McConnell mused.

“I think it’s very important for us as American high school students to show our voices and beliefs in a peaceful way that shows that we really care,” agreed freshman Benton Perry. “I think walkouts may prove very significant in American history if Congress listens to its people and makes change. #NoMore.”

More planning will be going into the specifics of the walkout, so any students looking to get more involved should not hesitate. The walkout is meant to stand in solidarity with the victims and the survivors. It is led by students in order to emphasize the value and impact that students can have on this country. Together, students can make a real change.

“I am participating in the walk out, because I think in addition to commemorating the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting, we need to stand up and take action in any way we can, in order to urge Congress to take action themselves,” expressed sophomore Tess Leonard.

Some students, who wished not to be quoted, want to participate in the walkout to honor the victims but are worried because they do not necessarily support the stances taken on gun control. Some do not want to participate at all, but they are not sure if their opinions will change once they know more about the walkout itself.

The walkout is inherently a demonstration in favor of gun control, but it is important to note that absolutely anyone is welcome to join in. Regardless of where one lies on the political spectrum, most everyone has reached the conclusion that something must change; the disagreements lay in what exactly that change must be.

Ultimately, the only requirement for participation is that everyone who does participate takes it seriously, because that is what it is. It is serious. It is borderline revolutionary.

The bottom line is that, at Hingham High School, or any school for that matter, no students or staff members should feel afraid to walk through school doors. But if the residents of Parkland, a city named one of the safest in the all of Florida, can suffer such trauma, then no place is truly safe under the current system. Everyone deserves to feel secure in a school environment.

And that is what students and staff across the country will walk out for on March 14th.

EDIT: Due to weather complications, the date of the Hingham High School’s walkout was changed to March 21st.

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