Walkouts, Marches Highlights Student Calls for Safety

In response to the recent shooting in Parkland, Fla., the WHHS community took action. On Feb. 21, at noon, dozens of WHHS students decided to walk out of their classes and join rally together in Blair Circle.

“I participated in the walkout because if I couldn’t stand up for myself as a student, then who would?” Perri Wedlock, ‘19, said.

“I wanted to do it not just for me, but for all the victims whose voices were silenced too soon, and so that no teacher, student or parent would have to grieve for their loved one or be mourned by a loved one because of senseless gun violence… Especially in schools,” Wedlock said.

Approximately two hundred students participated in the walkout.  Some even made impromptu signs for the event.

“…[My sign] said, ‘We won’t be afraid’ which I like because I really think that we, as high schoolers, shouldn’t be afraid of going to school… I think that our society has not taken teenagers seriously and so we are left with fear for our futures and our safety,”  Liza Allen, ‘19, said about the sign she held during the walkout.

The unified stance students are taking has inspired many.

“I think it’s time for our generation to take hold of our future. We will be the generation to end gun violence… Not all of the adults might take us seriously, but we have strength in numbers and strength in our passion,” Allen said.

Not only did a walkout occur on Wed. 21, but there was also a school-wide call to wear all white with a single orange ribbon.

Lucy Beauchamp, ‘19, began to organize the solidarity colors as soon as she started to hear the details about the shooting unravel. “White shirts and orange ribbons seems kind of trivial but I hope it helped unify us and made it obvious where we as a student body stand on this issue,”  Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp is continuing the fight by organizing a petition for a meeting with the superintendent and CPS board members. “I have been included in a couple groups of students that are hoping to continue the movement.  A number of marches, walkouts and student led discussions are being planned,”  Beauchamp said.

In addition to the walkout that occurred at WHHS, many other schools and organizations across the country have participated in various shows of solidarity.

Many upcoming walkouts and protests on a national level have been planned as well, including the National School Walkout on March 14 and another walkout on April 20 in honor of the 19 year anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.

Another march scheduled for March 24, called the March for Our Lives, will occur in Washington, D.C. as a call to Congress for gun reform. All three of these marches align with the same theme: enough is enough.

Along with the sense of empowerment and leadership many felt while protesting, students also feared retribution from school officials in the form of suspension or something even more severe.

At Colerain High School, it was announced that they will not condone any form of protests and students who participate will be punished. As a result, many lawyers across the nation have offered free legal services to affected students to ensure fair punishment by schools.

“We’re not trying to drum up business here,” Milwaukee lawyer Jay Urban said in an interview with Wisconsin based newspaper, The Journal Sentinel. “We’re trying to be a resource so schools take into account the rights of students.”

In addition to support from lawyers, many universities are also ensuring students that any punishment that occurs from walk-outs or other peaceful protests will not affect their chances of being admitted. Universities making these statements include the University of Cincinnati, Ohio University, Ohio State University, and hundreds of others across the nation.

In addition to universities showing their support for students, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has listed the explicit rights of students involved in peaceful protests. Students who participate in walkouts and leave class can legally not be punished more than the standard punishment for missing class. Schools can not discipline students more severely for leaving class to express a political view or because the school administration does not support the views of the protest. Legal action can be taken against the school if a student receives harsher punishment for leaving class for a protest than what is listed in the schools policy or handbook.

The stances taken by universities across the country and the ACLU highlight how large the movement for stricter gun laws has become.

“I hope Walnut continues the movement.  Students shouldn’t stop fighting for what they believe is right until real change is made. School should be a safe place, and right now that simply isn’t the case,” Beauchamp said.