Wednesday morning, at 10 o’clock, students at Englewood High school joined students at schools across the country peacefully walking out of their classrooms.
“The shooting was terrible. We need more security at all schools to make students safer,” Cody Montrose (9) said.
More than a hundred students walked out of classes — for 17 minutes.
“It’s such a big problem because you should not have to worry about this and where I come from, I don’t have to worry about school shootings,” Emma Hansen (11) said. She is an exchange student from Norway. “The walkout to me represents safety in our schools and honoring the victims,” Abby Sendef (9) said.
17 minutes is one minute for each of the victims in last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. It’s been nearly a month since the Florida shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. Survivors and their allies have turned their grief into activism and advocacy. Part of that effort is Wednesday’s national school walkout which students at Englewood took part.
“The gun laws don’t really matter as much to me, I don’t know when they will be changed, it’s the respect for the people who died. It is always going to happen whatever laws are in place,” Janay White (12) said.
The walkout has energized teens nationwide.
“We are doing this because it shows our support against school shootings,” Feliciana Maldonado (10) said. “It makes me feel like I have a voice and that I can help with change,” Yakez Daughtry (10) said.
The organizers of the national event are Women’s March Youth EMPOWER. The group insists this walkout is meant to honor the victims in Parkland, as well as anyone who’s experienced gun violence. It also calls the walkout a political call to action. Students said they want to do more than just feel sorry for the victims, “I feel bad. I think we need more strict background checks and even metal detectors at our doors. That would make me feel safer at school,” Sean Campbell (9) said. “We are here to spread awareness and honor those who lost their lives,” Aiden McGonegal (10) said.
Students are asked to wear orange which is the national color of unity.
“To stand up for what you think is right. It is a crazy, scary world. No matter where you are you are taking risks,” Alexia Griego (9) said.
Organizers say the walkout is also about stricter gun control laws. It urges those taking part to urge Congress to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks before gun sales, and pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.
“I am glad I took part, we came together as a school to stand up against gun violence,” Damian Delgado (9) said.
Do Students Have a Legal Right to walk out?
The Pirateer researched the student’s legal rights to freedom of speech or expression. The U-S Supreme Court addressed the issue in 1969. In the case of Mary Beth Tinker, the teenager from Iowa wore a black armband to school to protest the Vietnam War. School leaders suspended her for the action. In its decision, the Court wrote, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The decision was a 7-2 majority. The Court sided with Tinker saying her protest did not “materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.”
The national walkout is no armband, and could possibly exceed students’ free speech protections. So because the walkout raised a lot of questions for school districts including Englewood, this letter was sent home to families a few days ahead of the walkout:
March 9, 2018
Dear Englewood High School parents,
Student leaders from EHS met with me this week to discuss their plans for a student walk-out in remembrance of the Florida students who lost their lives on February 14th. The walk-out will occur on March 14th from 10:00am–10:17am. This event is in conjunction with nationally planned walk-outs to honor those who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14th. We support students’ constitutional rights to protest and to express their views and opinions, and we want to keep students safe while allowing them to express their views. Students may choose to participate as long as they support the respectful nature of this time.
This demonstration is not a protest. The purpose of this walk-out is to honor the students and educators whose lives were lost a month ago.
Students and adults may also show support of the lives lost by wearing orange on March 14th.
Our students plan on silently walking out and lining the sidewalk on the west side of the campus along Logan Street. There will be adult supervision to maintain safety and security for all students. Students will return to class as soon as the 17 minutes have passed. If a student leaves campus during this time, he/she will be marked with an unexcused absence and the parent will be notified. I encourage you to discuss this event with your child and be clear about your expectations as to whether you approve of them attending the walk-out or you expect them to stay in class during the event.
Please share the following talking points with your student in preparation for the event.
A walk-out must maintain a dignified tone–students should not be running around, yelling, or participating in horseplay while in attendance at the walk-out. Any student who is not participating in the dignified tone of the walk-out will be asked to return to class.
Students who choose to participate will exit the building through the east doors and remain with the group outside from 10 am–10:17 am. Students must return to class at the conclusion of the walk-out time, or they will be marked absent.
Students are allowed to bring posters as long as they are school-appropriate.
Students are not allowed to leave campus.
There may or may not be media present during the walkout, at no time will media be allowed on school property nor be allowed to interview our students or staff on school property.
During the demonstration, students must conduct themselves according to school and district behavior expectations. Students may not:
Threaten violence to property or persons
Cause or attempt to cause damage to district or private property
Engage in verbal abuse, i.e., name calling, ethnic or racial slurs
Violate criminal law
Violate the district’s alcohol use/drug use policy
Engage in violent or aggressive behavior
Throw objects that can cause bodily injury or damage property
Direct profanity, vulgar language or obscene gestures toward other students, school personnel or others
Interfere with the school’s ability to provide educational opportunities to other students
Again, the walk-out is completely optional–teachers will remain in class to continue the day’s lesson with the students who do not participate in the walk-out.
Thanks for partnering together to support our students,
Schools operate in what’s known as ‘loco parentis’, meaning schools are legally obligated to keep students safe during the school day. Englewood police officers, school resource officers, administrators and teachers stood watch over students. “We need the security because what if someone disagreed with us and tried to harm us. I’m glad we had security with us,” Carmen Rich (10) said.
Many students did decide to stay in class at EHS. “I didn’t take part because I don’t know enough about the Florida incident to have a good opinion,” Ian Ramey (10) said. Others were not taking part saying the walkout doesn’t go far enough to make a difference on gun issues.
For those who believed in the walkout, they say this is a day they will remember, “The walkout showed me that our community can come together and honor those who were involved in the recent tragedy,” Jade Houston (9).