School Walkout


Lauren Vernon

Megaphone in hand, a student leads demonstrators. Students chanted "this is what democracy looks like," "books not bullets," and "not one more" to cheers and honks from passers by.

Blue Brasher, Reporter

This Wednesday, students across the world plan to walk out of class for 17 minutes to stand in solidarity with their peers in Parkland, Florida, and honor the 17 lives lost when a gunman opened fire. Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, allies to the student organizers of the March 14 demonstration, say the walkout is to “protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.” It is powerful to see so many young people unite behind a cause.

Schools across the country are reacting in different ways, some positively and some negatively. For example, school districts in Wisconsin and Maryland are giving students unexcused absences, and the school district of  Needville, Texas is going as far as suspending students for three days if they participate. Other schools are supporting their students with excused absences and even putting together school-sponsored events with speakers. So how are Fayetteville Schools responding to this movement of students?

Fayetteville High School has decided to listen to students and back them up on their efforts to make a difference. Seventh and fifth periods will be swapped that day; additionally, the advisory portion of the day will change with A&E beginning at 8:50 a.m. and Edge beginning at 9:35 a.m.  At 9:55 a.m. March 14, there will be a bell dismissing students to the courtyard. There will be a 17-minute program that starts with the reading of the 17 names of students and faculty that lost their lives in the Florida shooting. Following that, there will be four more speakers. At 10:17 there will be a bell to dismiss students back to class.

Following this program, there will be a march to Washington County Courthouse, which is not a school-sponsored activity. Students who wish to participate will need to turn in a signed note to the Purple Office no later than 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 13. If a student participates without a note, it will be counted as an unexcused absence.

So how did the school decide to support the students in their effort to make a difference? Principal Steve Jacoby said, “We determined there was a need to listen to the students.” He explained how a student came in to speak with him about the walk-out and he decided to put together a meeting with students from different organizations along with school personnel from the district.

After much consideration, the district decided to join the nationwide effort that was to take place on March 14 at 10 a.m. Principal Jacoby said, “It was not an arbitrary decision, it was made after much thought and communication with both students and faculty.”

Students of FHS are excited for this Wednesday to let their voices be heard and to stand up for a cause. Whether it be to honor the victims of gun violence or send a message to Congress, students are using their voices to make a difference. Many students are concerned with gun control laws, such as sophomore Maggie Hendrix who said, “I want to send a message to lawmakers that effective gun control reform must take place immediately.” Freshman Aley Houston said, “I am participating to honor the loss of those who died in Florida and walking to the courthouse to sponsor change within our lawmakers regarding gun control.” A junior said, “I am participating because at this point I am afraid. It wouldn’t be all that hard to get a fully automatic gun which is scary. I don’t want to be scared at school.”

Some students are not supporting gun control reforms, but are still participating in the walkout at 10:00. “It’s important for everyone to realize that although it is about guns and it’s political, for me it’s more to commemorate the lives lost,” another junior said, adding “At this point … all I want to do is honor these people’s lives.”

Not every student is for the walkout; in fact, quite a few are not participating at all. Many believe the walkout will not actually make a difference, such as another junior who said, “People are just doing this as an excuse to get out of school. I agree that we should have more precautions to prevent a school shooting but there’s not really much that can be done.”

Some students think that gun control will not do anything, like sophomore Gavin Kuncl who said, “The [Columbine] killers used illegally purchased firearms, with one being illegally converted into a machine pistol. Violent degenerates will be violent degenerates.” Kuncl believes that a walkout is not the solution because we should instead be increasing the security at schools, “Overhaul the security at schools,”he said, adding “Don’t take that as give every teacher level four body armor and an automatic rifle, but at least put more police officers on duty.” “AND officers that are not cowards.”

There are many viewpoints on the issue of gun violence, but almost everyone can agree something needs to be changed. The horrific tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida has really hit home with students all across the world. It is hard to even fathom. There is not one clear solution, but students have come together with a clear message of solidarity and unity. So if any student wants to attend the walkout, come to the courtyard when the bell rings at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 14. If students want to participate in the march to the County Courthouse, make sure to get a signed note to the purple office by March 13.

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