Briley Conant, second from the left, and Zach Pederson, far right, ask other Sumner high schoolers to link arms in a show of unity and support for each other, and other students around the nation. Photo by Ray Still

Briley Conant, second from the left, and Zach Pederson, far right, ask other Sumner high schoolers to link arms in a show of unity and support for each other, and other students around the nation. Photo by Ray Still

Unity, ‘radical civility’ preached at walkout

Sumner High School joined thousands of other students in a nation-wide walkout last week.

Last month’s massacre at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was the latest in a long line of mass school killings in the U.S.

Last week, students around the nation — including Plateau middle and high schoolers — walked out of their classrooms in the hopes it will be the last.

“With all this talk about preserving our 2nd Amendment rights, it’s nice to see so many of us exercising our 1st Amendment rights and raising our voices for issues that are important to us,” Briley Conant, a Sumner High School junior, said to a crowd of close to a hundred students and a few adults who attended off-campus grounds. “The purpose of today’s demonstration is to protest the lack of action targeted at ending violence in schools. We are here advocating for and end to all violence in schools, from school shootings to bullying, because no student should be afraid to attend school.”

Conant was a key organizer in the Sumner High School walkout, along with Zach Pederson and a handful of others.

Many of the walkouts around the country — which started at 10 a.m. and lasted 17 minutes, one minute for each student and staff member killed in the Parkland shooting — focused on gun control, both in reaction to the growing number of mass shootings in the country and the renewed call sto arm school staff as a way to prevent or mitigate further shootings.

But Conant and Pederson decided to take a slightly different direction for their school walkout.

“There’s a lot of different opinions at Sumner High School. One of the things that we really tried to do is make it non-political. I mean, it is political, but we’re trying to make it non-political because we’re trying to create a space where it’s safe for anyone to have their own opinions,” Conant said in an interview after the walkout.

So while the rally was about change, Pederson said, it was also “about unity” — trying to find common ground and bring as many students into the discussion as possible.

They called this “radical civility.”

“It’s starting at the base level where everyone can agree,” Conant said. “No student, no teacher, nobody wants violence in schools. So just starting where everyone can agree, and building it up from there. That’s the only way to find a solution to an issue like this.”

Building relationships — especially with people across the social or political aisle — is the precursor to bringing social change on polarizing issues, they said.

“We must ensure that no student here is isolated from the student body. We must ensure that we do not create an environment that would rear a possible school shooter. We must ensure that we are in solidarity to create the change in our school environment to eliminate hate from our way of life,” Pederson said when it was his turn on the megaphone. “Try to meet as many people that you do not know and try to learn more about them… [ask] why they participated in this school walkout, and [learn] what they are going to do in order to make sure that no student at Sumner High School is contemplating taking away their life or the lives of others.”

All in all, Pederson and Conant said they were very happy with the way the Sumner High School walkout went, and they hope the conversation around school safety will continue in a civil, understanding way.

“Everyone is on the same page,” Conant said. “We’re all going to work together to find that solution. No one should be left out.”

More in News

‘Activity backpacks’ for exploring state parks to be available at your local library

There are several guidelines to make checking out the backpacks a smooth process.

Sharing the love this Valentine’s Day

Crestwood Elementary student Kinzi Hansen organized a Valentines Box drive so every elementary student in her school district could celebrate the holiday.

Man pleads not guilty to rape of local teen

Errol Leon Vanpevenage, Jr., admitted to knowing the 17-year old was underage, and allegedly threatened her and her family if she broke off contact.

Despite Supreme Court Ruling, activists fight youth incarceration in King County

No New Youth Jail Coalition members send Valentines to King County officials asking them to reconsider funding priorities

Buckley Hall to host Pierce County “history day”

Come learn about your area nearly two dozen historical societies.

In Buckley, more storage units on 410, beer and wine downtown

Wood, Wine, & Whimsy got their alcohol license Feb. 12.

Final work begins this week on Buckley traffic lights

Police will be guiding traffic on state Route 410 in Buckley Feb. 14, 20, and 21, so plan accordingly.

Task force to take on fate of Sumner pool

A new task force — which is still accepting applications from the community — may not only decide the future of the aquatic center, but the overall Sumner High School renovation project.

Southbound traffic backs up as northbound drivers cruise on with ease on the Highway 99 viaduct on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
WSDOT hopes ‘Viadoom’ habits continue

The department credits commuters with adapting to the closure and mitigating impacts.

Most Read