Shortly after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, that killed 17 people, many across the nation, including Port Washington residents, participated in a student-led nationwide school walkout on March 14 and the March For Our Lives protest on March 24. With the 19th anniversary of the Columbine Massacre approaching on April 20, thousands of students across the nation are set to walk out of their schools at 10 a.m. to protest congressional, state and local failures to take action to prevent gun violence. Although the Port Washington school district does not support the full-day walkout, several Schreiber High School and Weber Middle School students plan to walk out of school from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to participate in the nationwide protest.
“I was at the march in Washington on March 24 so I was really moved by that and found www.nationalschoolwalkout.net,” explained eighth grade organizer Abraham Franchetti. “I signed my school up and contacted my friends to organize. The last walkout was more of a memorial. It was us standing near Schreiber and being silent to commemorate those who died. The inaction of our school district galvanized us to make this happen.”
“I personally feel it’s important for Schreiber students to participate in a walkout because our walkout combined with other walkouts across the country makes a strong statement,” said Schreiber organizer Sydney Kass. “Most high schoolers can’t vote, and we need a way for our voices to be heard and acknowledged. An event of this magnitude, where so many schools, hopefully, participate is hard to ignore. Students walking out want change; we want to see the Senate and POTUS pass stricter gun legislation. Hopefully the Schreiber walkout along with the rest across the country will grab their attention and demonstrate how serious the youth is about the issue.”
The walkout is intended to draw attention to the need for the passing of sensible gun laws, and Weber students explained that they hope to use the day to call and write letters to politicians and corporations who endorse the NRA in an attempt to persuade them to stop their endorsements. Weber students explained that they also plan to call local officials who oppose the NRA and support common sense gun legislation to thank them.
“U.S. gun control has always been very important to me,” said eighth grader Meiling Laurence. “It is crazy to me that children in schools have to suffer due to the lack of control the government has on firearms. I hope that through aiding in the organization of this walkout, I can help to bring about gun control and end gun violence, both in schools and out, once and for all.”
“I got involved in this walkout because I looked around and realized the sheer quantity of recent school shootings and realized it had to change, and I wanted to help it do so,” added Weber student Natalie Parker. “The first step towards change is to call attention to a problem, and the walkout here is expected to help do just that, so I decided to involve myself.”
Weber students had sent a letter to Principal Christopher Shields regarding their participation in the walkout. In a meeting with Shields, Franchetti recounted that Shields couldn’t allow the interruption to the instructional day.
“We’re aware of possible threat of detention and suspension,” said Franchetti. “But this really means a lot to me because my cousin was murdered with a gun, not in a school but with a gun.”
“I do expect students walking out on Friday to face some type of consequence—after all, we are essentially cutting class—but I can’t definitively say that there will be,” said Kass. “We won’t know what’s going to happen until after. I can’t speak for others, but I understand that the school can’t condone the walkout. Schreiber is a school, which means it’s supposed to educate, so it makes sense to me that the school wouldn’t endorse students’ efforts to skip class. After the walkout, I hope Schreiber keeps the momentum going and continues the fight against gun violence.”
In a statement, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen Mooney said, “The Port Washington School District does not condone a full-day student walkout on Friday, April 20, as it could negatively impact classroom learning. Furthermore, student safety is of utmost concern should students choose to leave campus without permission for the entire day.”
As of presstime, Weber students had a meeting scheduled with district officials to discuss the walkout; however, the students said they were insistent on participating in the full-day event.
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