Students honor Parkland victims, organize walkout

Students honor Parkland victims, organize walkout

In remembrance of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, there was a 17 minute walkout,  Wednesday. Students took to the stadium to honor the victims while others took to the street to protest and call for change.

After the massacre that occurred Feb. 14, the Parkland survivors took to various media outlets to express their exasperation regarding the lack government’s lack of action. They called for stricter gun control and rallied students from all over the country to stand with them.

Inspired by the Stoneman Douglas survivors, a local Instagram account spreading the idea of a walkout at Westview soon popped up.

“It is important to me that I and the people helping me are able to reach teens in the most effective way possible,” Shira Griffith (11), the creator of the account, said.

While the following was small at first, word began to get around after Paige Riza (11) and Mary Lynn Tracy (11) contacted Griffith  to become more involved with the cause.

“We decided it was our role as student leaders to promote school safety,” Riza said. “Everyone here shouldn’t be afraid. We knew from the start we shouldn’t make it political.”

In an attempt to start and continue a conversation on school safety, the walkout was meant to confront the issue head on.

“[This walkout] is about joining the student body as one to speak up for the fact that schools have become an unsafe place and have it be recognized,” Griffith said.

The walkout began to take shape when Griffith, Tracy, and Riza contacted other prominent school figures including the Principal Tina Ziegler and other vocal students hoping to participate, to bolster support.

A week before the walkout, Griffith, Riza and Tracy met with Ziegler to discuss safety precautions. In addition, they put together an informational booth that handed out pamphlets and provided information on how to donate time and money to the cause. One of the flyers being given out also detailed different ideas on “where funding for better security could go towards.”

The decision to protest peacefully was done in solidarity with the victims of the shooting, hoping to draw more attention to the issue rather than the protest itself.

“When you’re leaving class, accepting what possible consequences there could be, that shows a lot more than just signing a petition,” Tracy said. “It puts your voice out there even more.”

Though the walkout is only planned for 17 minutes, it is part of a greater movement, one that has even greater implications.

“What we really hope for this walkout [is that] we want to be able to start the conversation and keep the conversation going,” Riza said. “We might have different political views and beliefs, but something we can come together on as a nation and a school is that changes in any sort of form need to happen now because it’s gone too far without a change.”

Though they say change is necessary, Tracy also adds that important points are often overlooked in the midst of political discussion.

“With the recent political atmosphere and just how divided we are as a country right now, we forget that we are all humans,” Tracy said. “We are trying to bring people together rather than divide the school into different beliefs.”

In order to grasp the full scope of the issue, according to Tracy, you have to look at more than just statistics and names.

“When you see pictures of [the victims], what they were involved in, who their families were, you need to take into consideration that these kids are gone,” Tracy said. “They are never coming back [and] their families will never see them again.”

Part of the walkout means confronting participants and onlookers with their own desensitization.

“This can’t be happening enough to the point that we are so numb to hearing it, that it’s not a surprise,” Tracy said. “The people who we have lost can’t stand up for themselves. We need to stand up for them.”

The walkout and its movement have laid out the groundwork for a more involved youth. It is because of them, according to Tracy, that things are happening differently this time.

“The Parkland students have inspired a nationwide movement, and people are finally paying attention,” Tracy said.

Though support for the walkout has been evident, criticism and pushback makes the task ahead daunting.

“For our entire lives, we’ve been a step under,” Riza said. “We’re kids, not parents. We’re students, not teachers. We’re employees, not employers. And for the first time, it feels like we finally have a voice to say, ‘we are not going to back down.’ [And it’s] because we finally feel the power to do the right thing. Kids are dying, and we will not stand for it anymore. Everyone needs to step up. I understand that the issue is complex, but we won’t stay silent. I have hope that our generation is not going to back down.”