Students participate in peaceful walkout to recognize victims of school shooting in Florida

Over 300 students attended on Thursday, March 8, with 17 of them holding signs displaying the victims’ names

Bailey Heffernon

Ashlyn Windmiller, JAG reporter

A student-led walkout on Thursday, March 8 at the front of the school honored the victims of the Parkland High School shooting. Students left their classrooms at 9:55 a.m. and chosen demonstrators read the names of the victims while dropping roses at 10 a.m.. To end the walkout, organizer senior Claire Boone gave a speech honoring the 17 victims and discussed how the event was held to remember lives lost rather than promote political beliefs.

Among the 17 students that held a victim’s name was freshman Ben Wieland. Wieland helped plan the event, as well as draft the notice to the administration and believes the most important part of planning the walkout was making the administrators aware of the demonstration, while also gaining their support.

“We didn’t know how they would react,” Wieland said, “But administration responded positively and they told us that as long as we protest peacefully, we could do what we planned to do.”

One of the main concerns from both parents and other students was that the walkout would be promoting gun control. Boone felt upset with such beliefs and wants to clarify that while the demonstration was inspired by a tragedy involving gun violence, the walkout was planned to unite the community and honor the 17 victims.

“There are quite a few people inside the school and in the community that think this walkout is about gun control,” Boone said. “It doesn’t matter what your political beliefs [are or political] ideology is or where you align. We’re a nation united against gun violence.”

Regarding misconceptions about the students’ motivation for the walkout, Principal Tobie Waldeck explained to parents in an email on Tuesday, March 6 regarding the purpose of the event and how the administration planned to handle student participation.

“This student-led activity is organized, well planned, appropriate and respectful in its purpose,” Waldeck said.

Wieland also believes that the walkout was respectful and thought the meaning behind it had unfortunately been hidden behind the labels other people were putting on it.

“We were not protesting,” Wieland said. “We were calling for unity.”

Waldeck’s letter also highlighted his appreciation for the student body’s respect and courteous behavior throughout both the planning process and the walkout, as well as made clear that disciplinary action would not be taken against students who chose to participate.

“As your principal, I am appreciative with the manner in which these students have organized this event,” Waldeck said. “As stated earlier, this is a student-led activity and students who choose to participate will not receive a consequence for doing so.”

Despite the misunderstanding of the true purpose, Boone felt that the walkout was successful and reaped benefits inside and outside the school. Boone loved the impact she made on those around her and believed the walkout would also increase students’ knowledge of their rights.

“This walkout will help the students connect with one another and will in turn unite the community together as well,” Boone said. “The walkout is also showing adults that as teenagers, we can stand up for what we believe in.”

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