Walkout

Sadie Ortiz

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March 13th, 2018, one day before the national school walkout and four weeks after the Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland Florida school shooting. As the day approached, students who worked hard to push the message of a gun control walkout became anxious. I thought about the frustration of planning the walkout. Walkouts have occurred throughout the history of the United States, and all were spontaneous or covert, meant to disrupt the daily proceedings of school; yet that was exactly what Park City High School’s walkout lacked.

 

As buzzing about the walkout first began by students, Park City High School administration made sure to be at the front line of that buzz. When I first heard about the walkout from my peers I thought it would be spontaneous and disruptive, reminiscent of the 1968 protests by Chicano students against unequal conditions in Los Angeles Unified School District. Yet, I came to be disappointed that it would be nothing like that. The frustration of administration trying to take control of the message, where we could stand, and something so small as flying a drone disappointed me.

 

Having the walkout planned minute by minute for all 17 minutes allowed the police department to order an overwhelming number of officers to to make students feel “safer.” Soon after a statement was released by the district with a comment section, meant to start a conversation about the walkout with parents and students. However, the statement was made to seem as if the school was sanctioning the walkout. Parents expressed concerns for the walkout and the safety of their students in the comment section and one parent even said: “Why do you think that strict gun control laws will better protect students? What about the major gun laws put in place when former President Reagan was shot? They required background checks, waiting periods, etc and have been in place for decades yet we still have shootings. Oh yeah you were not born yet.” Many comments like this were made, parents arguing with one another if the walkout was something the school should have allowed. What they were not realizing was that as students we were going to walkout no matter what administration decided.

 

Not only was the walkout over complicated but too many people that have power wanted to take control. As students, we agreed to do the walkout in support of gun control, even if that meant getting in trouble for leaving  class. We wanted to show the fear of coming to school after the Parkland shooting. I appreciate the school wanting to support students and I appreciate parents concerns. However, awalkout is meant to be disruptive, powerful, and planned by students and throughout the month of March students began losing credibility as school administration started to take control and credit for the walkout that was not meant for them. If the schools wanted to show support there were other ways of doing that besides muffling student voices and deciding the way the walkout would happen. There is a fine line between support and control and the school administration was not clear about that.

 

March 14th, 2018: I am sitting in class waiting, watching the clock slowly creep to 10am. Students push away from their desks, rising from their seats and marching to the location we all agreed on. Students walking behind one another, some holding signs: “guns have more rights than my vagina,” and “I could be next”. All students were heading towards the same door, small murmurs and laughters for something that is not funny can be heard. My eyes are gazing those that have taken a seat, I stand with my fellow classmates in front of those students that have decided to walkout. I am overwhelmed with the one question in my head, why am I walking out?

 

Chanting begins, “vote them out, vote them out, vote them out,” My arm was rising, my hand in a fist. My eyes tear up as Olivia reads off the biggest shootings, her voice quivering. How many children, students, teachers, and people have died from shootings? How does that happen?

 

Adrenaline begins rushing through my body as I become emotional and angry. Angry that I have to fear what lies between the four walls of my school. I feel the fear that has continuously hindered me since the Parkland shooting. The last school shooting is being announced: “Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland Florida, seventeen lives were lost.” I observe the faces of those in the crowd, some emotionless, some crying, and some even laughing. The seventeen minutes have ended. A Fox 13 news reporter approaches Serena and I as students clear leave the parking lot – just as Mrs. Sugget has demanded we do. The news reporter asks what I have to say to the counter protesters that are against gun control, and words begin to explode from the inside of my body, desperately trying to explain what the counter protesters are not considering, that these are teenage lives that are being lost, that students shouldn’t be afraid of taking their last breath where knowledge is being born, people that fear large crowds, that teenagers will never be able to feel the same, that will never be able to see their friends or family, and are never able to forget this fear, fear even I continue to feel. The question once again coming to mind, why am I walking out? The question was immediately answered within myself of wanting to feel safe in the building I spend more than seven hours a day in my life.

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Walkout