It’s time to walk out

%23enoughisenough+trends+on+twitter+as+more+and+more+students+advocate+for+the+nationwide+school+walkout+and+March+For+Our+Lives.
#enoughisenough trends on twitter as more and more students advocate for the nationwide school walkout and March For Our Lives.

#enoughisenough trends on twitter as more and more students advocate for the nationwide school walkout and March For Our Lives.

Courtesy of actionnetwork.org

Courtesy of actionnetwork.org

#enoughisenough trends on twitter as more and more students advocate for the nationwide school walkout and March For Our Lives.

Melissa Ellin, Contributing Writer

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Out of the numerous school shootings so far in 2018, Parkland’s on Feb. 14 was arguably the most horrific. It called into question the definition of a school shooting, as well as what we are going to do about them. Because some shootings occurred outside school hours and others were suicides which are, in some people’s opinions, not a school shooting, the number varies depending on the news source. But numbers and statistics for school shootings have been flying around haphazardly for the past few weeks, and the exact number of school shootings for this year is still unclear. “Snopes’” journalist David Emery and other news sources have done breakdowns coming to the conclusion that there have been a total of 18 school shootings since Jan. 1 of 2018. “The Washington Post’s” journalists John Woodrow Cox and Steven Rich challenged this claim saying that “[18] is a horrible statistic. And it is wrong.”

Regardless of whether you choose to side with Cox and Rich or Emery, I think we can all agree that there have been 18 gun-related incidents on school grounds this year, and that is not, nor will it ever be, acceptable. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Stoneman Douglas) in Parkland, Fla. recognize this.

After gunman Nikolas Cruz pulled a fire alarm on campus, he started shooting, killing 17 people at the school. The students of Stoneman Douglas took to the press, social media and other outlets to make a call to action for students across the nation. This call to action culminated in the form of a student walkout planned by the Women’s March Network to occur nationwide on Mar. 14 at 10 a.m. with 17 minutes of silence to commemorate the 17 lives lost during the shooting.

Soon after the announcement of the walkout was made, many schools across the country discussed and decided that they would participate. Solon High School was no different. By Feb. 20, plans for an SHS walkout were already in motion. Walkout organizer and senior Pranav Iyer contacted Solon High School Principal Erin Short upon initially hearing about the walkout and made his case.

I emailed [Short] the weekend after Parkland and asked to meet with her [the morning of Feb. 20],” Iyer said. “She is extremely accessible and open to ideas, so I just asked if we could participate and she said she would talk to the board. We got authorization and held a meeting to discuss logistics.”

The meeting was held with Short, Iyer, school administrators and other student activists. At the meeting, they discussed how they would address the students’ safety, whether or not staff would be able to participate and what the purpose of the SHS walkout would be.

When the Women’s March Network announced the national walkout, they did so with the intention and goal of advocating for gun control. While I personally believe this is a noble cause, I realize the setbacks of having this as the walkout’s objective, and the students involved in planning for the walkout had a similar sentiment. Walkout organizer and senior Vikas Jain had a particularly strong opinion on the matter. He made it clear that the SHS walkout will not be about gun control, gun rights or politics.

I don’t believe this has anything to do with whether you are a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, it really [is about] what you want to do with the world,” Jain said. “Do you want to change it [to have] less lives lost, or do you want to just keep it how it is? And I believe that by walking out you are demonstrating that you want to reduce the number of lives lost because you want change.”

Both Iyer and Jain said that that the SHS walkout will not have any anti-Second Amendment attitudes. In fact, Jain went on to say that he is concerned people will believe the walkout to have this stance.

“My worst fear is that people will stay inside and they’ll say, ‘Oh everyone outside is saying that we need stricter gun control,’” Jain said. “‘We’re inside because we don’t believe this.’ That’s creating immediate devisiveness, both physical and within their mentalities, and I really don’t want that. I believe that unity is key.”

That being said, the true goal of the SHS walkout is not only one of unity, but also bringing attention–not political opinions–to the issues of school shootings and gun violence. This may bring changes in legislation to guns, which are welcome, and honorable, but the walkout will not be preaching gun control.

The message for this walkout is different from that of other schools, so it makes sense that the walkout itself will also have a different procedure. It will be held at 10 a.m. on Mar. 14, and all students and staff will be allowed to participate. If students choose not to, they will be placed in a study hall together. Everyone will exit through the school’s back doors and congregate on the Stewart Field track where two students, one of which being Iyer, will give speeches. They will then say the names of each student and teacher who lost their lives at the Stoneman Douglas massacre and have a moment of silence following each, instead of the 17 minute block of silence that was originally intended by the Women’s March Network.

The student planners interviewed said they feel that this was the best way to spread the message to end gun violence and that mere silence is not enough.

Being an advocate for the walkout, I have had many discussions about it with my peers. Junior Laila Edelman voiced her concerns and fears for the movement. She said that she feels it is important to participate, and that she would like to, but she is worried that by having students gather outside school, they will be sitting ducks for a shooter. It is true that this would make an attack easier, but this is a national event, and at Solon, we will be safely protected by a perimeter of security outside the school. Only SHS staff and students  will be allowed on school grounds, and the only news source will be the Courier.

At the same time, if students choose to stay inside, potential shooters win. We have the right to feel safe within our own school, and we should not have to fear coming to school to get our education.

“I think kids are angry, and teachers are somewhat angry about what happened [because] we have to go to a place where we don’t feel safe,” said SHS Psychology teacher Robin Joseph.

These feelings of anger and anxiety have left the student body with an insecurity that is leading to childish actions. I myself have heard various jokes being made about the school shootings throughout the halls these past few weeks. It’s wrong and it’s hurtful, but it’s pervasive. Senior Lisa Hall shared her beliefs about the farce surrounding these events.

I have heard countless people turn school shootings and [school safety] into a joke, and it’s pretty off-putting,” Hall said. “I have a friend who doesn’t have the best reputation around the school, and the day after teachers were promoting the Safe School Helpline someone called it on him just because. People are taking these precautions as a joke and using them [for] their own personal entertainment.”

The walkout should not be treated with these antics. This is a national movement that is simultaneously acting as a vigil for those who lost their lives at Parkland. A memorial is not a place to have fun and be rowdy. If students were to act crudely towards the walkout as some have towards Parkland, the significance of the movement would be lost.

Luckily, there will be precautions to ensure that people don’t abuse the walkout’s obvious pitfalls. Since the walkout will be making it easier for people to leave school grounds, SHS security will be taking note of any student that leaves without going to the walkout site, and they will face consequences.  

I personally feel that it is important to have as many people as possible participate in the walkout, but if it is for any other reason than those which the student advocates intended, stay inside. This walkout is about changing legislation so students can feel safe in their schools. Not getting fresh air or lunch.

Additionally, Short said that she hopes people will participate in the walkout and take this seriously, but it should be made clear that if they do not participate, they will not be reprimanded.

The bottom line is that this is a chance for SHS to truly make a statement and take a stand in the form of a peaceful protest.

“I think it’s important for people who are part of the Solon High School community to participate, to show their solidarity and unity in terms of putting an end to violence in schools,” Short said. “We all should feel safe when we come here everyday.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “It’s time to walk out”

  1. INdiresha Iyer on March 14th, 2018 4:35 pm

    This is the defining movement for the post Columbine generation. We adults support the movement to bring about change in policies to reduce gun violence in our country.

    [Reply]

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