At 10 a.m. today approximately 400 students walked out of their classes and gathered outside in the main side of the building. Some who participated in the 17 minute walkout, supported the gun violence victims from Parkland, Fla., while others chose to stand up for stricter gun laws.
One of these students was junior Aubrey Sanders; she said she walked to support the victims that lost their lives due to gun violence as well as to protest against semi automatic rifles that she says can shoot 600 rounds per minute.
“Most people’s reason for having a gun, or most of the people I’ve talked to, is for hunting purposes, which is fine,” Sanders said. “However, I believe that you don’t need to be able to shoot 600 bullets a minute at a deer. These types of weapons are made specifically for killing people.”
Standing near the demonstrators were two students holding paper with “I support the second amendment” written on them. As the walk out group took a moment of silence in respect of the victims of gun violence in schools, Sanders said one of them shouted, “I support the Second Amendment.” While Sanders believes it is great that they had the courage to say what they believed, she thinks their timing was inappropriate because the moment was for the victims of Parkland.
“I walked up to them and asked them what their argument was in the issue and they responded that they want to have their right to bare arms. Then I asked what they would use it for and they responded hunting,” Sanders said. “I asked them if they needed to be able to shoot 100 bullets in one clip to kill a deer and they responded, ‘Well, no, I only use one because I’m a good shot.’ I then told them that we were here today to support the schools who have been affected by gun violence, although it is related to gun control, the walk out wasn’t what that was about. It was fine for them to state their opinion but they blatantly disrespected the victims by yelling during the moment of silence for those affected, which was morally wrong.”
During the walkout, the district informed teachers they were not supposed to leave their classrooms unattended unless every student walked out. If the teacher was not teaching, he or she was told by RBHS administration to supervise the walk out to ensure student safety. Following the school guidelines, Advanced Placement (AP) Literature and Language teacher, Nicole Clemens went outside and said while the students supporting the Second Amendment had the right to be present, they might have considered picking a different time to voice their opinions.
“For whatever reason we’re out there, that moment was about those kids who are no longer around,” Clemens said. “So while I totally support that not everyone else feels the same way about the larger issues, I think that what people on ‘the other side’ had to say probably didn’t go over as well, didn’t internalize as well because of them choosing that particular moment to speak about what they were speaking.”
Besides the moment of silence, multiple students gave impromptu speeches on their thoughts on keeping schools safer. The speeches started with a human microphone when junior Matthew Burns stood and shouted the names of the schools that have suffered from gun violence and the crowd responded back with, “We march with you.” Inspired by this, senior Kris Cho decided to speak.
“It was really inspiring to see my other peers go up there and speak,” Cho said. “Originally, I wasn’t planning on speaking; I didn’t have any speeches written out, didn’t really any ideas down on paper or on my phone, but seeing everyone else go up there and seeing the solidarity that was shown today, I was really inspired to go up there and also voice my opinion and participate in the kind of community we were showing and the kind of strength and solidarity we were showing.”
Cho said she wishes that the school would’ve allowed teachers to show solidarity but understands why they were told not to stand with the students. She also recognizes that the issue at hand was more than a political one; instead, it was a matter of students, teachers and staff feeling safe at school.
“It’s all hypothetical because that was not an option, [walking out,] that I had as a public school teacher, but I don’t think [supporting the Parkland victims and addressing gun laws] are necessarily separate,” Clemens said. “I think that they can be separate, I think that there are ways to support these kids who experienced this strategy without necessarily supporting the idea of safer schools and what that means in terms of guns and stuff like that. For me personally, those are so inextricably linked that I don’t think I could differentiate between the two.”
Did you walk out today? Tell us why or why not in the comments below.