#ENOUGH: SPFHS students walk out in protest against gun violence

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Reina Makimura

On March 14—the one-month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School school shooting in Parkland, Florida—students across the country walked out of school for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims who lost their lives. As the clock switched to 9:55, Scotch Plains-Fanwood students from all grades and classes quietly left their classrooms to gather at door 12. Five minutes later, they filled the pathway to the turf field. In an impressive display of solidarity and passion, students across the nation called politicians to action.
“We strive for a better tomorrow,” senior class president Taylor Diggs announced in her address to the crowd.
The school walkout was part of a national event organized by Women’s March Youth Empower, which called upon students across the country to stand up to gun violence. A group of student leaders worked with Dr. Heisey to coordinate and spread awareness about the walkout for SPFHS, making sure the student body was informed on the logistics. This was largely possible because of the work of student council members and the cooperation from the administration.
Different high schools chose different ways to express their support. At Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, students gathered near the football field for two minutes of silence in memory of the victims, during which the names were read. Following the silence, students had the opportunity to sign a banner that stated, “SPFHS says #ENOUGH.”
There were additional tables set up where students could write to representatives in Congress and those 17 years or older could register to vote. Both of these activities were ways to help facilitate and encourage political involvement from teenagers, showing them that their voices matter. Many students across the nation also wore the color orange in support of ending gun violence.
“I feel like [the walkout is] showing that we may not be old enough to vote, but we still are old enough to say something and to make a change,” senior Briana McGowan said. “It’s showing that we’re the future leaders of the world and we’re not okay with this.”
Numerous students agreed with this sentiment.
“So many young teenagers are realizing that we do have a voice,” senior Sara Miller said.
Part of the power of school walkouts is that they give a voice to students, many of whom do not currently get to have a say in the political system. They bring attention to the opinions of America’s youth, and the national walkout was featured on news stations around the country, showing that people are paying attention to students.
“I think the young people of today can make such a difference and it’s really important to be a part of that change,” senior Hannah Davis said.
Overall, the general goals of this walkout were to make a statement about gun control, to show solidarity with Parkland, and to honor the victims. More specifically, the national walkouts send a message to Congress that many students believe stricter gun regulations are vital to the safety of students—and students aren’t going to be passive about the danger they feel their schools face.
“I’m here to support the fact that we need to have gun control,” senior Ella Scannell said. “There can’t be [mass shootings] happening…when we have means to prevent them.”
This statement is echoed on the official page for Women’s March Youth Empower. Some policies they support include expanding background checks for all gun sales and banning assault weapons.
“We demand that Congress enact an immediate resolution,” they write, “and [dedicate] federal funding to research solutions and implement violence intervention programs.”
Although many students participated, not everyone agreed with the walkout. There was a large portion of the student body that elected not to be a part of the peaceful protest, staying in their classrooms. Meanwhile, others chose to vocalize their oppositions.
“I wanted to walk out to remember those that lost their lives in mass shootings because I think that’s important,” junior Jonathan Koseoglu said. “But what I did not like was that I felt like the walkout turned into a political agenda…I disagreed that it was used in a way that promoted gun control because I don’t believe that that was the proper platform to do that.”
While the details of this issue are clearly controversial, the recent school shootings certainly have affected the students at SPFHS and across the United States.
“I think the Parkland shooting has really shaken us, our school in particular, because they were just an average suburban kind of school, just like us,” Miller said. “It could have happened to this school.”
This feeling is shared by many students in light of these recent events. Americans in general, but particularly students, have felt a lot of different emotions when it comes to these tragedies. There is sympathy and pain over the lives lost, anger that these terrible events continue to transpire, and the fear that they will happen again. Every lost life is awful, but this pain and fear is amplified when there is the feeling that it could happen to anyone.
Some students in SPF have shared that they have friends or family that were personally affected by the school shooting in Parkland because they live in the town, were survivors, or lost someone close to them. This causes many students to feel even more connected to the tragedy.
While personal political beliefs vary greatly, this walkout indicated that there are teenagers that want change and want their voices heard. People have different ideas on how best to prevent future tragedies and protect schools. However, the conversation on the topic has become significantly louder as it grows to include more Americans of all ages that feel this issue directly affects them.
“I think it was a great showing of solidarity with the victims of Parkland, countless other victims of gun violence, and it also showed that we have a united front,” Diggs said. “There’s plenty of people in our school that believe that there should be a change in our country.”
This walkout was the result of too many tragic mass shootings. SPFHS students used this opportunity to say “Never again,” and the national event ensured that they, among other American students, were heard.
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