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.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in News

Enumclaw pumpkin carving master David Hauge will be one of the judges for the upcoming Halloween pumpkin carving contest (no pressure). Pictured is the pumpkin he carved in 2019. Photo by Ray Miller-Still
Pumpkin carving contest planned for Halloween night

The city of Enumclaw is hosting a pumpkin carving contest for all ages Oct. 31.

The Enumclaw School District remains in Phase 3. Image courtesy ESD
Enumclaw scraps plan to return K-5 students to classrooms

A hybrid learning style was originally supposed to start Monday, Oct. 26.

King County 2020 unemployment numbers. Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Boeing, coronavirus likely to impact King County economy

Unemployment remained high in September.

Blotter bug
Enumclaw, Black Diamond police blotter | Sept. 29 – Oct. 11

Possible teenage car prowler, an assault with a firearm, and someone passed out on the sidewalk.

Sara Stratton is the new executive director of the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation. Photo by Ray Miller-Still
Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation picks new director

Sara Stratton has years of experience helping other nonprofits with their events, as well as having started her own, before joining RFWF.

The state Department of Health is seeing increases in COVID-19 infections. Screenshot
Concern that climb in cases means ‘fall surge’ is starting | DOH

Experts are saying we must act now to reverse trend.

With members of the City Council looking on, Black Diamond Mayor Carol Benson cuts a ceremonial ribbon, opening a ballot drop box at the library. Photo by Kevin Hanson
County Elections places ballot drop box at Black Diamond library

No longer will Black Diamond residents have to drive out of town to vote.

Eric Robertson
Fact check: Robertson falsely claims Seattle Times retracted editorial accusing him of racist incident

The Legislative District 31 candidate holds the Seattle Times misreported what happened in its editorial endorsing his opponent, providing 1995-era news reports as proof.

Enumclaw's empty Expo Center has seen a large financial loss. Courtesy photo
Enumclaw council hears of tough financial times at Expo Center

Director Rene Popke has estimated the Expo could see a net loss of $700,000 by the end of the year.

Most Read