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In their own voice: Students offer thoughts about school walkouts

UPDATED: Wed., March 14, 2018, 10:28 a.m.

The Spokesman-Review asked local high school students to share, in their own words, why they plan to walk out of class Wednesday morning to demand stricter gun policies. Their reasons vary, but they all expressed one ultimate goal: Make schools safer.

Meleya Williams and Elizabeth Schumacher, Rogers High School

Rogers High School juniors Meleya Williams, left and Elizabeth Schumacher. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Rogers High School juniors Meleya Williams, left and Elizabeth Schumacher. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

At the beginning of the school year, after the Freeman High School shooting, we as students were all completely shocked by how close to home this incident was.

As everything began to calm down, we were again shocked at the most recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Almost immediately after that, we began to see the social media posts by our peers across the country. These posts called for action, pleading for this generation to rise up and be heard. We decided to put our voices together, asking for a national conversation to end school shootings.

Here at John R. we are planning to walk out on April 20, on the 19th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School. As one voice, we are asking for immediate action to develop policies that will make our schools safer. Students and educators are being traumatized by these situations and need to be involved in the solutions.

We are not saying that we have all the answers, but we are asking to be heard and taken seriously. We now know that we need to be active in this democracy, and peaceably assemble to have our voices heard. We want to address mental health issues and gun policies and find solutions for safer schools. We are here today to say we want our future to be safe, for ourselves and for all future generations.

Cooper Osborn, Mead High School

Cooper Osborn, a Mead High School junior, has written what the March 14 walkout means to him. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Cooper Osborn, a Mead High School junior, has written what the March 14 walkout means to him. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

From my perspective, this school walkout isn’t necessarily a gun rights movement or a movement for many of the other highly opinionated political topics. It’s about students coming together collectively to not only pay our respects to those affected by the Parkland shooting, but to make a statement.

We are trying to tell the nation that we as students don’t feel safe anymore, and that needs to change. There is a serious mental health epidemic in our nation, and we want to call attention to that. People may walk out for a multitude of their own personal reasons.

Ultimately, we just want to be heard, and we want the issue paid the respect and attention it deserves. We will stay outside for 17 minutes to pay our respect to the 17 souls who were lost one month ago during the horrendous Parkland shooting. After that, we will walk back to the front door to re-enter the school through the single point of entry.

Fiona Whitver, Lewis and Clark High School

Fiona Whitver, the senior who organized Lewis and Clark High School’s March 14, 2018 demonstration. (Chad Sokol / The Spokesman-Review)
Fiona Whitver, the senior who organized Lewis and Clark High School’s March 14, 2018 demonstration. (Chad Sokol / The Spokesman-Review)

The idea of this event is not to get out of school. It’s not to tell everyone that we want the Second Amendment abolished – that’s the biggest misconception about the walkout we are doing. We want one thing, and it’s really simple. We want safer schools. We want to know when we go to school in the morning that we will walk out that day after class is finished.

Teachers carrying guns in classrooms is not the answer. Locking doors is not the answer. The problem is so much bigger and requires solutions on a larger scale. We want Congress to listen to us. We want to be heard. They aren’t doing the future of this country justice, and it’s time to change that. We are the future of America, and we stand for change. I organized this event because I want Cathy McMorris Rodgers to listen up and understand we won’t go quietly.

Ashley Romanowski, Coeur d’Alene High School

Coeur d'Alene High School senior Ashley Romanowski talks about organizing the Coeur d’Alene High School walkout. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Coeur d'Alene High School senior Ashley Romanowski talks about organizing the Coeur d’Alene High School walkout. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Over the course of planning this walkout, I’ve heard a lot of different thoughts on what it means – things like gun control to finding a way to skip school. But to me, the walkout means teaching students that they have the opportunity to use their voice, no matter how young they may be.

I’ve watched students from every grade, every friend group, every sport and club, all come together to make change in their country, and it is by far the most astounding thing I’ve ever seen. It’s been rather demanding to put this together, but at the same time it’s been far easier than I ever thought it would be.

It’s eye-opening to know that if there’s a cause that’s important to you, you can do things like call your local news station, talk to your school administration and connect with members of your community. It’s that easy. Even if we aren’t of voting age yet, our voices matter, and that’s what I hope kids learn from this. If you take action, you can make change in your country.

Madeline “Maddie” Gendreau, Mead High School

Madeline "Maddie" Gendreau, a Mead junior, has written what the March 14 walkout means to her. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Madeline "Maddie" Gendreau, a Mead junior, has written what the March 14 walkout means to her. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

As Jim Watkins, an award-winning author, once wrote, “A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” It is this idea of persistence that is driving me and many other Mead High School students to take place in the National School Walkout. We recognize that we must show our support for the dead (and living) victims of all school shootings, and especially the Parkland shooting. However, we also recognize that support alone will do nothing.

Many of my peers on the Mead Student Alternative Leadership Team and Student Council have helped me plan a safe, effective walkout for Wednesday morning. The purpose of which is to support shooting victims and speak out to Congress to make lawmakers acknowledge that schools are not safe enough, and to prompt them to action.

Social change doesn’t happen overnight. But with constant persistence, I know that the students united across America can change our country for the better. We, the students, can be the change that makes school safer for everyone.

Morgan Coerver, Mead High School

Morgan Coerver, a Mead High School junior, has written what the March 14 walkout means to her. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Morgan Coerver, a Mead High School junior, has written what the March 14 walkout means to her. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Since my birth on Sept. 16, 2000, my life has been riddled with a multitudes of news stories of shootings all across our beautiful country. There came a point to where I was completely numb to the violence and tragedy that occurs at our schools.

When that violence struck close to home, at Freeman High School, my eyes were readjusted and refocused. As Mead High School’s walkout is being organized, we finally have a chance to say, “Enough.” Safety and belonging are unbelievably important to your children, students and friends. This walkout is purely for that. We want to remember the students who have lost their lives at school, as well as address the glaring problem of school safety in our country.

We do so in a place of respect for our elders and those who care for us, and we implore the public to have an open mind to what we are saying. I want to thank every parent in this community for their support and unending love for their children, as a movement such as this may not have been possible without your support.

Dylan Schuler, Mead High School

Dylan Schuler, a Mead High School junior, has written what the March 14 walkout means to him. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Dylan Schuler, a Mead High School junior, has written what the March 14 walkout means to him. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

For me, the walkout is not just a chance to acknowledge the increase of violence in our schools nationwide. And, as many other people have said much on this aspect of the walkout, I would like to address why I will be walking from a different angle.

Too often, it seems that students are taught merely for the sake of being taught, not to become better or more active citizens, but to have their head crammed with a list of answers to questions so a checkbox can be checked saying they are competent in such-and-such subject. As this process continues, we lose sight of what was on that list, questions like, “What is Thoreau’s message in Civil Disobedience?” or “What did the Montgomery bus boycott achieve?”

Our curriculum is devoid of action. The walkout, I think, bridges the gap between the bold progress we learn about and the sterile setting of our classrooms by allowing students to actively demonstrate their support for a cause they feel is important. Whether or not you agree with the message being supported by the walkout, I think that a more active citizenry is something everyone can support.