One of the most devastating realizations for society today is that we aren’t safe at the movies, places of business, clubs, concerts, the mall, or even school. The worst school shooting since Sandy Hook took place Feb. 14, in Parkland, Florida, when Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was attacked by a 19 year old with an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon. Several people were injured and 17 people died that day — 14 kids whose families will never see them again, and three staff members that risked their lives to protect these children who also will never go home again.
This shooting sparked an international movement called The National School Walkout, led by the student victims of the Parkland shooting, to put an end to mass school shootings. Students across the nation were called upon to walk out of their classrooms on March 14, the one month anniversary of the shooting. The walkout duration was 17 minutes; one minute for each life lost in the Parkland shooting.
When I heard about the walkout I immediately knew that I needed to participate because enough is enough. I wanted to show my support of the Parkland victims but also call on Congress to impose stricter gun laws. This movement has forced me to think about why I personally wanted to walk out and where I stand on the issue of current gun legislation. All children have a right to be safe while attending school.
I have seen some confusion as to the motives of the walkout and want to offer some clarity. This is not about taking all the guns away but a call for common sense gun laws so that not one more child or teacher has to die from a mass shooting.
Another common opposition to the walkout is that walking out won’t do anything and it is disrespectful to the teachers. I want to point out that teachers risk their lives every day to teach us. I am thankful for every security person, custodian, teacher, administrator, and district staff member that makes our education possible. This is for you too. We fight for your right to a safe workplace as well.
The day before the walkout, a social media campaign encouraged students to “Walk Up” to the kids who feel like an outsider and befriend them instead of walking out on March 14. While this is a nice idea, we don’t need a day to be kind humans. In fact, encouraging kids to “Walk Up” is implying that if kids would simply treat outsiders nicely, our mass school shootings crisis in the U.S. will stop. This is victim blaming. While I agree that there should be no outsiders in a school setting, encouraging students to “Walk Up” for just one day is just a distraction from the real issues.
To those who argue that mass shootings are a mental health issue, I agree. However, this is not solely a mental health issue. Mental health is a global issue; school shootings are not. We do not see this anywhere else in the world and to ignore it as though it is not our nation’s problem is tragic.
Many people will discount us because we are young. But what they don’t realize is that we are the future and in that future, we vote! Some high school students vote this November and some of the freshman will vote in 2020. I am proud of the 200 WRHS students who bravely joined in solidarity on March 14. We remembered the 17 lives lost in the most recent mass shooting that sparked this movement and we also called on Congress to pass stricter gun laws. The next time you hear about the walkout, please don’t disregard it and don’t disregard us. We are the future and we believe something has to change. Our lives are more important than these deadly weapons.