The National School Walkout, beginning Wednesday at 10 a.m., was the movement instigated by the deaths of 17 students in last month’s mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which gave students of thousands of schools all across the country a platform to speak about years-worth of insufficient gun restrictions.
“We’ve been failed,” said Krista Reilly, senior at Middletown High School North in New Jersey. “This keeps happening: every time, politicians in power say that something needs to be done. Adults nationwide offer thoughts and prayers, saying how it should never happen again. But then it does. Again and again and again. It’s our lives on the line, and if we have to take control, we will. We’ve had enough.”
The students participating in the walkout have the platform of three main demands: the banning of assault weapons, the requirement of background checks for those purchasing guns universally and a gun violence restriction law that would “allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.”
The walkouts encourage students to stay outside for 17 minutes; one minute for each of the 17 students killed by shooter Nikolas Cruz, who is now facing the possibility of the death penalty for his heinous crimes.
“It shows the impact that we’re making and it really shows us we’re not alone,” Sam Zeif, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, said. “Gives us a lot of strength.”
Sam Craig, an organizer for the protest of one of Columbine High School’s neighboring schools, expressed just how Parkland had motivated the new push for gun control. “We saw people in classrooms just like ours, wearing clothes just like ours, they looked like they could have been any one of us at any of our schools,” he said. “And seeing them lying in pools of blood was really powerful for us.”
Schools that have been plagued by shootings join the thousands that walked out, including Newton High School, Columbine High School, and, the most recent, Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School.
While some schools openly advocated for their students to make a statement, others threatened punishment for their protests, marking students as absent or even going as far as to suspend them. Still, for some, the cause was greater than the effect. In Walton High School, Georgia, more than 100 students abandoned their classrooms at 10 a.m. despite threats against them.
Students also protested outside of the White House, sitting with their backs turned to the building to advocate for gun restriction. More students are expected to participate in this action on Mar. 24, in the March For Our Lives protest to shed light on political inadequacy.
These young activists are taking the nation by storm and exhibiting just how powerful teenagers can be. This is a display of the years of gun violence that has defined our generation.
Photo: Jonathan Scala