Stamford High Students participate in a walkout in solidarity with gun violence victims on March 14, 2018.

Jacob Herz

The Walkout: Two Students Give Their Perspectives

March 23, 2018

Assembly vs Walkout: There’s a Difference

On March 14th, students all around the country collectively walked out of class in protest of safer schools and gun reform. Stamford High School was informed that we would take part in this walkout, but in reality we were met with limitations. We didn’t have a walkout, we had an assembly.

This nation wide walkout comes one month after the deadly MSD school shooting where 17 lives were lost. The students at that school rallied together in their anger and sorrow, and started forth a movement that has sparked a trailblazing fire in this generation. Students at our school organized this walkout, and while our administrators were more than obliged to support this action, in all honesty, they overstepped their boundaries when they didn’t allow us to go outside.

This movement was created by students to advocate for our safety and show that it’s time for us to be taken seriously. While we deeply appreciate the administration’s support and Mayor Martin’s call to action, the student body does not need to be coddled during protests. But can we even call it that when Manka himself called it a presentation? And frankly, it felt like it. When we were sitting down in the gym, we were just being talked at, with very little inclusion of the student body whatsoever. All we did was walk to the gym, those who brought signs holding them up with hardly any enthusiasm. If we had a walkout as planned, everyone would feel like their presence mattered and that they were really adding their voices to push for change. Instead, teachers and security guards lined the doors and only allowed us to sit and listen for 30 minutes.

Granted, there were fears that students would just leave campus as soon as they got outside, but hate to burst your bubble; if kids wanted to leave, they did anyway. And, while it is true that some kids might have attended the walkout simply to get out of class, the majority of our school’s population truly wanted to participate in this walkout.

My point is that our voices while heard, they were muffled by the interests of others. We should not have let the administrators control the situation. We have the power and that protest, not presentation, was supposed to exemplify that. It is great that our administration “allowed” this to happen, but it shouldn’t have mattered if they did or not. We were cheated out of our chance to stand in solidarity with fellow students around the country. Our civil disobedience was impaired.

Westhill and AITE were outside, their conditions were no different than ours, and yet we were subject to restraint. Every point made by student, principal, or mayor was completely valid and important, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to take away from the message of school safety that our students so brilliantly executed. I just find it undermining that the moment was shared. We are truly grateful of support but this is the time for students to stand up. It shouldn’t have mattered what anyone said, we should have marched right out onto that field and planted our feet. It wouldn’t have been hard to plug in an amp or bring a megaphone for those to speak. Hopefully, this movement will be more than a political photo op, because our lives are at stake.

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    It Was Still the Students

    Our involvement in the national walkout was initiated and led completely by students. It started with small conversations between some friends and I, voicing our anger and sadness about the Parkland tragedy. And then it spread across classroom discussions, showing the passion and desires of the student body to participate alongside the rest of the nation. Our mission statement for the walkout wasn’t influenced by administration in any way, it was the direct words of five kids sitting in the small auditorium, discussing the concerns our peers and teachers shared to remember the victims of the Parkland tragedy and encourage our classmates to get involved in demanding for a stronger presence of safety at Stamford High.

    So why did we speak to administration in the first place? What was their role in our walkout? Our concerns and reasoning for approaching administration were advisorial, using Manka and Forker’s experience with engaging our student body to provide us the resourcesto shape our walkout with an emphasis on an educational and engaging purpose. We were scared of having a walkout where the issue being protested isn’t directly received, which could lead to focusing on opposing ideologies instead of our concern for school safety. From the minute we first approached Manka about involving Stamford High in a walkout, he and Forker supported us in every endeavor, happily listening to our ideas to make sure that the response we want from the walkout would come through loud and clear. The coddling that they are accused of was pretty much nonexistent, their only influence being gathering in the large gym instead of Boyle Stadium, which was a conversation we also had asked about beforehand and encouraged if the weather would be a problem. They also approached us about Mayor Martin’s presence, which we agreed on as a way of getting the district involved in our strives for greater safety. If our administration system encourages our engagement in student activism and have direct experience with demanding for enhanced safety measures at our school, why should we isolate our movement to only have the viewpoints of students? There is strength in numbers, and power from a large united front. So why should we ostracize the viewpoints of the teachers and administrators that agree with our movement? What strength comes from dividing our voices?

    As the #NeverAgain movement, spearheaded by teenagers just like us, continues to demand legislative action for gun violence, our role in being apart of the change is more important than ever. There’s no denying the passion of our current generation: we are here, we are upset, and we want change. But with us are faculty members, who are just as affected by gun violence in schools, and who also wish for the safer environment we envision. Therefore, we should use our similar situations to unite our voices together for Stamford High’s safety. It is through our cooperation that we can see a more effective difference happen faster for the sake of all lives in our schools.

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