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Reactions to recent school walkout are divided

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Reactions to recent school walkout are divided

Students gathered in front of the school on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Students gathered in front of the school on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Minh Vu

Students gathered in front of the school on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Minh Vu

Minh Vu

Students gathered in front of the school on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

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A nervous energy was palpable during the moments leading up to noon on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, exactly one week following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL, which left 17 people dead and multiple more injured.  

Students streamed through hallways to witness and join the gathering crowd of their peers on the front lawn and surrounding street, accompanied by a select number of teachers, counselors, administrators and security personnel who stood on the outskirts of the growing mass.

Hayfield was one of many schools across the nation to participate in a walkout organized primarily through social media by both survivors of the Parkland shooting and local students– just the first of multiple scheduled in the approaching months.

The general intention of the walkout was to support the Parkland survivors’ fight for gun control in the wake of another tragic shooting, but while the majority of students and staff believe their motive to be warranted, the form of protest being encouraged has elicited differing reactions.

Senior Omnia Abdalla joined many in support of the school walkout movement, her motivation being to acknowledge the disreputable politics involved in the gun control debate.

“I came out to recognize that our political parties are flawed and certain interest groups pump money into political parties so that they can support their own financial agendas,” Abdalla said. “That results, unfortunately, in the killing of innocent students.”

While administrators attended the walkout for additional security, several have defended the rights of student expression and free speech– a stark difference from recent reports of a Texas school district threatening its students with three-day suspensions for protesting (Time).

“I think it’s really great that young people want to express their concern for their own safety in our schools and are willing to peacefully protest, take additional action with their community representatives and continue to be civic-minded people. Their voices have a right to be heard,” Director of Student Services Erin Crowley said.

Being notified prior to the walkout, school security and administration were able to create and maintain a secure environment for the protest.

“We had a pretty good idea that this was going to happen, so we had a security plan in place,” Principal Martin Grimm said. “We have people posted around making sure that [students] are safe [and] making sure that no one else comes in.”

However, despite these successes, a significant amount of students and teachers noticed problems.

Many weren’t aware of the walkout or its veracity until the day of or even just minutes before the scheduled time of noon, which mitigated the potential impact of the event.

“The walkout wasn’t very organized, and it wasn’t well publicized. Those without Twitter or other social media were not informed, and there was no word of mouth unless your circle of friends was participating,” junior Shannon Tran said.

Other students took offense to how their peers behaved during the walkout: treating it as an excuse to leave class regardless of their stance on the issue.

“I think [the walkout was] absolutely disrespectful. When I was coming out of lunch, I could hear people talking about how they didn’t care about the cause or were straight up against it, but they did it to get out of class,” senior Alfred Smith said. “When I looked out the window to see, a lot of people were laughing or on their phones. I’m sure there were people participating that did care, but they’re definitely outnumbered by people not taking it seriously.”

Teachers shared similar concerns, as most students who participated left their classes during instruction time.

“Any student should have the right to protest peacefully to see change in their community and society, but obviously you need to be protesting for the right reasons,” English teacher Carolyn Wright said. “If the only reason that you are walking out of school is to spare yourself a few hours in classes, that completely undermines what the whole protest is about in the first place, but students should always have the right to express themselves and be activists for a change in their community.”

An excessive amount of demonstrations can have an adverse effect; if the implication of a walkout is not cohesive or authentic, as many believe was the case on Wednesday, the credibility of participants can be damaged.

“You don’t want to have [so many protests] that your message becomes diluted, and you want to make sure that your message is strong and that people take you seriously,” Grimm said. “I think it’s important to have the free speech to be able to make your point, and I also think that it’s very important to be very strategic about it so that someone else can’t take your message and turn it against you.”

The next nationwide school walkout is officially scheduled for March 14 through the Women’s March Youth EMPOWER group, and Parkland students are currently organizing the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. on March 24, followed by a National High School Walkout scheduled for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

 

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