As I wrote this article on March 9, I was sitting in my Pre-AP Algebra 2 class. Forty-eight earlier, I walked out of my Pre-AP Latin 3 class in solidarity with the March 14th National School Walkout. Because my school is on Spring Break this week, the Gay-Straight Alliance pushed up our walkout to March 9th. I fully intended to participate in this walkout, no matter what the consequences were. At ten o’clock Central Time, myself and a group of students gathered at the flagpole in front of the school. We, armed with t-shirts and signs, stood as administration told us anyone who stayed would be suspended.
I did not stay. An already small group of students quickly diminished as students realized the impacts a suspension would have on their futures. The immense pressure of parents, college applications, and classes being missed weighed on all of us. Myself and a few of my fellow Latin students retreated back to our classroom and promptly broke down in tears. We could not bear to know that we had “chickened out” of the protest and that we could not stand in solidarity with those who stayed and were threatened with suspension.
We sat and cried together, relaying through tears the story to our teacher who allowed us to leave his class. After getting through the story, I realized there was still some way I could help. I got out my notebook and began asking questions. Below are the answers I received both from those who could not stay to protest and those who did and faced suspension for standing up for what they believe in.
Where were you when you first heard of the shooting and what was your reaction?
Quinn, a Senior in my Latin class who I walked out and then back in with, told me that she first heard about the shooting when she got home on February 14th. She is not comfortable talking about politics with her family, so she kept her opinions to herself. She agrees with taking a stand for further gun control.
Malaika, another Senior with whom I have Latin class, told me she was in the front office when she saw videos of the shooting. She said that, like many other shootings, it was brushed under the rug and normalized in our society. She feels as though constant mass shootings are just how we live now.
Jackson, who told me about the walkout and stayed after the administration threatened suspension, said that he’s not quite sure where he was at the time of the shooting, but he remembers being fed up with the government’s lack of action.
Callie, who also stayed at the protest, told me that she heard about the shooting on the news the morning after it happened and that she was completely shocked, yet not surprised until she heard about the number of casualties and saw the videos that showed the fear inside the classrooms. She also added that her mom began crying after the shooting.
What should be done legislatively in response to shootings?
Quinn told me that the government should listen to students and future generations. She believes protests should be allowed, especially when it concerns safety.
Malaika said there should be stricter laws and an increase in screenings and psychological testing.
Jackson believes that automatic weapons should be illegal and that one should have to go through extensive mental examinations before obtaining a gun.
Callie told me that the government should limit the number of stores that sell guns because no one should be able to go to a gun show or a Walmart with a load of cash and purchase a firearm on the spot. She also believes there should be mandatory firearms safety classes and training, like a drivers ed course, to complete after each gun purchase.
Why didn’t you stay at the protest?
Quinn said that she opted not stay because of her parents, but regrets leaving. She felt as though she was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Malaika told me that she could not be suspended because she is on the track team. She said that because there were not a lot of people at the protest, there was no strength in numbers.
Why did you stay even though you thought you would be suspended?
Jackson said that he stayed because he already knew that suspension was a possibility. However, his priorities were placed with sharing his opinion with the public.
Callie told me that she stayed because she told her mom the night before, letting her know the potential consequences, and she approved. She figured that she had nothing to lose, but recognizes that not everyone has supportive parents like hers.
Will you participate in the walkout on April 20th?
Quinn and Malaika both said that they want to participate in the next national walkout.
Jackson told me that he believes his message was sent and so he’s not sure if he would take more time from school to participate.
Callie said that she would not only participate in the April 20th walkout, but also the March for Our Lives on March 24th.
As it turns out, the administration did not actually follow through on suspending students who participated in the walkout. Threatening suspension was only a scare tactic. They played out this threat well as they wrote down everyone’s names and student ID numbers. I know it seems irrational to be even more upset than I was before, but I am. It was one thing for me to leave to avoid suspension, but it feels like it is another to have left while no one was punished.
Nevertheless, I am so incredibly proud of everyone who was strong enough to stand up for what they believe in and face suspension for walking out of school. However, I also feel so immensely upset that this burden was placed on us. To give students what feels like an ultimatum—participate in a walkout and face the consequences or accept that your thoughts will never be heard by the adults who make the choices about your lives—is an extremely difficult choice to make. I am sorry that I could not make the choice I truly wanted to.
To any student who is facing this choice as well, I implore you to make the choice you feel in your heart is right. If you are not able to participate in a walkout, find another outlet through which your voice can be heard. For anyone interested in learning about the gun control debate going on and the push by students to make change, check out some of the other articles that have been published on BiPolitics.