A month after the deadly Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting that left 17 people dead and 15 people injured, Valley Central students marched out of their classrooms in solidarity with the survivors of the massacre for the March 14 National School Walkout.
They joined the thousands of students across the country who took part in the student-led movement for gun control. At 10 a.m., students filled in the back lot of Valley Central High School for 17 minutes to honor the victims of the Valentine’s Day shooting.
“I think that it’s so vital for us as a generation to stand up for what we believe in,” said Valley Central High School senior Nicholas Gorton. “We all want to come to a place where we don’t fear for our lives. As a senior and as a student, I feel like it’s our job to speak for our classmates and to express how everybody feels as a collective.”
One by one, students read aloud the names of each of the victims killed in the Parkland shooting. Several students held posters with victims names and messages with hashtags like #NeverAgain and #NeverForget.
Gorton and two of his friends, fellow Valley Central seniors Morgan Maier and Rebecca Kramer, made a poster with statistics about how much time students spend in schools annually. That’s 10 months, 40 weeks, 180 days, 1,260 hours, 75,600 minutes. They had one simple message: keep students safe.
While several administrations across the country have threatened students with disciplinary action for participating in the National School Walkout, Valley Central has fully supported their high schoolers and middle schoolers.
“They’re good kids, this is a terrific community and they made us proud today,” said John Xanthis, Valley Central Superintendent of Schools. “I think the kids absolutely get and feel that we value them and we value their opinion and it’s very respectable what they wanted to do. They worked collaboratively with the administration and their teachers that put this together and I’m really proud of them.”
The students were particularly awed with the support the administration gave them, with some even talking about how they received a text message from administration the night before the walkout about the event. Teachers held meetings where students were encouraged to give input on what the walkout should entail and were invited to make posters.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting was the 18th school shooting to take place this year. This haunting figure has taken social media by storm, but not all 18 shootings mimic the Parkland massacre. According to the nonprofit group Everytown for Gun Safety, who formulated the 18 shootings figure, to be considered a school shooting a firearm must have discharged a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.
Still, that’s an average of roughly three shootings per week. And it does not take away from the point thousands of students across the country are trying to make: we need stricter gun control and we need to protect students.
Valley Central students have decided mass school shootings must end. They called the March 14 walkout a symbol of their generation.
Two more nationwide walkouts are scheduled to take place: March 24 where students and parents will take to the streets of Washington D.C. and April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
By Jaspreet Gill