On March 14 there were symbolic walkouts at the Marlboro Middle School and at the High School that was part of a national day across the country where students spoke out against gun violence and the need to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in society.
Superintendent Michael Brooks said the Principals were aware that the event was going to take place just outside of the school buildings.
“They had a dialogue with their student body for a couple of weeks prior to it so there were scenarios that were planned out to keep kids safe,” he said. “It was for the most part a silent participation and recognition period.”
Brooks said he fully supports student involvement.
“They want to improve their education and make their school a safer place [that] I think is well placed energy. They are our most vulnerable asset and they have thoughts on what we can do as well on safety and security plans. Kids have an absolute role in helping to formulate this whether they know it or not because we’ve had a lot of dialogue with them and will continue to have dialogue with them.”
Student Representative Isabella Martinez helped to organize the Walkout at the High School.
“We just referred to it as the Walkout and it was planned through the National Women’s March Organization,” she said.
Martinez said she knew a number of students who were upset about the recent shootings and the victims of gun violence and “I knew a number of people who wanted to use their voice in a powerful way.”
Martinez communicated the concerns of the students to High School Principal Ryan Lawler, “and from there I got a group of students together to help plan it. We just met with Mr. Lawler a few times to make sure that what we’re doing was going to be safe and that it was going to be effective in what we were trying to say.”
Martinez said the event went off without a hitch.
“When the clock struck 10 a bunch of the students that had planned the Walkout with were actually in the classroom with me and students just got up and we all went to one collective area. There were a lot more students that participated than we originally thought because it all spread through word of mouth and through some forms of social media. The students were well behaved and the teachers were very, very cooperative in letting us do what we wanted to do and it went very peacefully.”
Martinez estimated that about 60 kids participated and another Walkout is being considered for April.
“A lot of us are very angry with what has happened and its something we’ve grown accustomed to growing up seeing all these shootings on TV. When this happened [in Florida] some of us didn’t even blink an eye and we weren’t surprised that another school had another shooting. A lot of students are fed up with feeling unsafe in a place that’s supposed to be their sanctuary. To have somebody take that away from you – many are angry about that and they want to voice their opinions. I think having an outlet to voice your opinions is very healthy and we just want to see some change happen.”
Martinez said the Parkland incident was different because of the widespread live television coverage and the tweets that were coming from the students as it happened. She said those students did not back down “once the shooting was over but kept going and they were ambassadors for this movement. They did not let other adults quiet them down and tell them they were being silly. That really influenced me to want to take a stand and I could actually use my voice for something that’s good. I’m not just a child; my feelings are valid and my ideas are valid.”
Principal Lawler said he wanted the event to be “student led.”
“There were people that wanted me to organize it; there were people that wanted me to stop it but the position we took was more that if this is a national thing and our students chose to participate, then that is a choice they make,” he said. “We also had to honor that there were kids that didn’t want to be part of it because they had different beliefs.”
Lawler said a place was chosen outside behind the bleachers by the sports field at the High School.
“We supervised them as they went to that location and observed the 17 minutes,” he said. “We had extra police on to make sure that we were in a secure location and a couple of extra staff in the area.” He said the event “was a statement of solidarity for all students to feel safe.”
By Mark Reynolds