A wrench has been thrown into the cyclical experience of our post-school-shooting national mourning process and it’s being led by those most affected: the students have had enough.
Students in high schools across the country are organizing themselves and taking to the streets so that their voices -- seemingly ignored for so long by the adults charged with protecting them -- will finally be heard. Minnesota youth, empowered and inspired by the actions and words of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, are compounding the call for stronger gun control regulations. And they’re just getting started.
Students Maddie Danzberger (16) of Minnehaha Academy, Kate O’Donnell (18) of Cretin Derham Hall in St. Paul, and Avery Welna (17) from Central High School in St. Paul have taken part in planning and organizing walkouts for their schools. As of Monday night 45 schools throughout the state have planned walkouts in conjunction with Women’s March Youth Empower on March 14. Cretin Derham Hall, Central High School and other schools located near St. Paul plan to join forces over the next couple of weeks to talk to legislators at the capitol.
“Honestly, I’m very proud and excited about all the other people that are standing with us on this. As a youth you often feel like you have no voice but we definitely have made an impact,” said Welna. “I feel like the teenagers and young adults in the world right now are acting on what we want to see for our future and we all want to be in a country that’s peaceful, not violent, and where we’re accepted for who we are. I feel like with all the horrible things that are happening right now there’s a restoration of hope with this movement.”
The students have dealt with both positive and negative experiences since the February incident which fueled their fire and inspired them further. Whether it’s large corporations like Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods increasing their internal regulations for gun sales, or the Florida legislature voting down an assault rifle ban while Stoneman Douglas students watched from the capitol building gallery; they don’t plan to stop making noise anytime soon.
“We’re really sick of sitting around and waiting to see who’s going to be next,” O’Donnell said. “We’re going to start with our legislators and we’re determined to make a change.”
Though they acknowledge that a lot of the regulatory changes will rest with lawmakers they know that they can only control so much of what happens at that level. Some students, in tandem with this movement, are hoping to shine light on mental health awareness and care in addition to pursuing further gun regulation.
“Taking away the guns is important but we also need to be the first line of defense when it comes to mental health and preventing violence,” Danzberger said. “It’s something that needs to be taught in schools. If we can expand our curriculum to teach about mental health and healthy relationships with friends and family, and teach kids that violence isn’t the answer to problems, we might keep people from turning guns on themselves with suicide, or turning them towards their classmates in anger.”
Though some districts are limiting the upcoming walkouts to students only, adult involvement going forward will be helpful to continue having student voices heard. Check with your respective district on the rules regarding individual walkouts if you wish to show your support.
So what now?
A list of known walkouts are found here. If your district isn’t on the list, make some calls or write a letter expressing your support for students who may be organizing the events.
Inspired? If you are a young leader, or know someone who is, send an email to email@example.com to see where your talents can benefit us.