Wednesday’s National School Walkout, marking one month since 17 high school students and staff members were gunned down in Parkland FL, will be observed indoors at Morristown High School to ensure “the highest level of student safety,” the principal said.
“Students who choose to participate will be permitted to leave their classes and silently line the halls of the school, after which students will return to class. No students will be permitted to leave the building,” Prinicipal Mark Manning said in a letter to parents.
Manning said he worked with members of the student government to plan “a non-political act of solidarity” with those who perished on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
At 10 a.m., students from at least 2,853 schools and universities across the United States plan walkouts or demonstrations lasting 17 minutes–one minute for each victim in Parkland.
The idea began with Empower, the youth branch of the Women’s March. It’s goals are political:
“Women’s March Youth Empower is calling for a National School Walkout to protest Congress’ refusal to take action on the gun violence epidemic plaguing our schools and neighborhoods,” states the Empower website.
“Our elected officials must do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to this violence. Students and allies are organizing a National School Walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.”
The organization supports bills to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, expand background checks for all gun sales, make it easier to remove guns via restraining orders, and curb the “militarization” of law enforcement.
It opposes measures to arm school staffs, or to legalize carrying concealed weapons across state lines.
“We view this work as part of an ongoing and decades-long movement for gun violence prevention, in honor of all victims of gun violence ㅡ from James Brady to Trayvon Martin to the 17 people killed in Parkland,” Empower says.
‘INNOCENT LIVES ARE BEING LOST FOR NOTHING’
Student activists at Morristown High School said Tuesday they grasp the school’s security concerns. But they said an actual walkout would make a stronger statement about the need for action.
“The laws in place are not restrictive enough, if these shootings keep happening,” said senior Sage Levy.
The best way to memorialize the Parkland victims is to secure a safer future, she suggested.
While Levy doubts students will risk suspension and loss of privileges by physically leaving the building, Levy said such a move would declare “we won’t continue to function as things are now, with all these innocent lives being lost for nothing.”
“Many students are upset with the restrictions given for this event, but many understand why these restrictions have been put in place,” said senior Bianca Shaw, who started the walkout movement at Morristown High.
Students will sign petitions and reach out to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) and Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker (D-NJ), Shaw said.
“I really believe that this National Walkout will allow students and young people to use their voice and help them realize that they can make a difference. I also hope that this walkout will start a conversation within our community about gun control and how serious a topic it is,” said Shaw.
She plans to become a teacher, like her late grandmother Sandra Knight, “who always told me to make a difference in my community.”
Principal Mark Manning and Morris School District Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast did not respond to requests for comment.
On March 24, 2018, Morristown will host a regional March for Our Lives, as part of a nationwide day of gun-reform marches started by student survivors of the Parkland massacre.
And the Network for Public Education is calling for a National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools on the April 20 anniversary of the 1999 Columbine mass shooting.
It’s important for students to know participation in such events is optional, depending on their beliefs, said Morristown-based psychologist Donna Gaffney, who has counseled young people after the Challenger explosion, hurricanes, 9/11 and other tragedies.
Conversely, events like the National Student Walkout can show youths that “if they have a strong feeling, they can express that in a nonviolent, peaceful way,” Gaffney said.
Classroom discussions about tragedies, including stories of people helping each other, “builds a sense of resilience, so kids know who is there to help them, and how they will get through these things,” the psychologist said.
As a safety precaution, Empower is urging the general public not to attend the National Student Walkout.
Those wishing to show support can wear orange, and walk out from their workplaces to stand with others for 17 minutes, the organization recommends.