The Roar

Students Demand Change

Photo by: Stephanie Son

Photo by: Stephanie Son

Photo by: Abby Detorie

Today, April 20, students participated in the National School Walkout

Earlier this year, there was a nationwide walkout to honor the victims of the Parkland school shooting. Then there was the March For Our Lives, which filled the streets with students and adults alike, all with the same goal of reforming gun laws. Now, there is another walkout on the anniversary of Columbine to show that students against gun violence will not stop protesting until the government changes the gun policies. This has caused plenty of outrage from people on either side of the argument.

As for Potomac Falls, Bob Sponaugle, the safety and security specialist, believes that students shouldn’t feel nervous about coming to school. He can’t disclose many of the exact procedures due to security reasons, but he assures that they are constantly working to improve them. He also thinks that the best way to prevent a mass shooting or any other violent act isn’t the procedures, but the trust between staff and students

“You can put all the plans and the technology in place, but the best part about a security system is building strong relationships of trust. We want the students to feel that they can come to a trusted adult. We’re not going to throw that information away; we’re going to do an investigation with it and see what’s going on,” said Sponaugle.

There is research from Northeastern University that shows that schools have actually become safer over the last decade. According to research by James Alan Fox, professor of criminology, law, and public policy, and doctoral student Emma Fidel, the number of students killed in schools during the 1990s was four times higher than today.

“Shootings are just more publicized now. We’re more aware of them now, but there are actually less now than there were,” said Sponaugle. “I can understand how kids can feel nervous because of the atmosphere and what social media puts out there to everyone, but we have a strong security system in place.”

Despite these securities, students still took to the stadium to show their opinion. Armed with speeches and signs, they made their stand against gun violence.

“We were tired of seeing the deaths of our peers followed by inaction on the political and national level in general. We don’t think it’s okay to go to school and keep the thought of dying in the classroom in the back of your head. We were inspired by the kids in Parkland who finally said ‘this is not okay, so we’re going to do something about it’,” said freshman Leah Ferrell.

Two students, senior Allison Trainor and sophomore Ali Al Safar wrote and shared their own speeches about their feelings on the issue.

“Days like these I hear my friends talk about how they feel/I hear my teachers soothe and plan/I see them scan the room, planning to defend/I go home and bite my tongue/My mom does not need to be afraid, at least not more than me/I look at my test and see a future that I may not even be allowed to have,” said Al Safar during his speech at the walkout.

He said he felt nervous, but felt that this was needed because those were his words and felt unstoppable. Al Safar felt like it was a part of him that needed to be shared, just as all the other kids who walked out with him.

“I walked out today because I do these little videos for my future kids as advice, but sometimes I break down thinking about how they may never get to see them because guns are allowed near schools without restrictions. My kids may not even be able to see them because I may not be alive to have them. Something needs to change, and we have a voice to do that,” said junior Katie Stevenson.

Not all students are on the same side of the issue, however. Juniors Jake Jensen and Alexander Rios feel that the issue cannot be solved by taking away guns.

“I’ve seen that historically, giving up your guns is not a good idea – with 30 million people killed under Joseph Stalin, 20 million under Mao Zedong, and countless others. Hitler disarmed the people in his country in the ‘30s and committed genocide in the ‘40s. You can’t give up your guns and think you’re safe,” said Jensen.

Both of them claim that they were verbally attacked and criticized for their sign that said “you can take my gun from my cold dead hands”. Each of them stated that of course they don’t want school shootings to continue, they just believe that banning guns is not the answer.

“I think that the problem is that you’re never going to end violence. Violence has been around for all of human history. If you allowed teachers to have guns in schools, what that would do is lower the number of mass school shootings,” said Jensen.

Following the speeches, Ferrell, junior Rachel Feit, freshmen María José Lema, and Ocean Akinotcho spoke the names of all schools across the country who were affected by shootings. After the school name was called, all students gathered behind that sign sat down to symbolize those who lost their lives to gun violence.

“I’m tired of seeing people die and nobody doing anything about it. We’ve seen it since we were little kids, and it’s getting so bad,” said junior Trinity Kimberly.

In the end, all of the students were seated and a solemn silence fell across the stadium. Walking back to the school, they stepped over the individual names of victims that were written in front of the school at seven that morning. Many of the students want a change and used this to make their stand.

“I think we can advocate for better gun control by making it at least as hard to get as a driver’s license, [have] better testing for gun license, and at the very least, psychological testing,” said sophomore Seraphim Gustilo.

Future plans are not specifically set at this time, but the students that organized the walkout plan to continue to voice their opinions.

“We’re planning on using social media, contacting politicians, notifying people when there are town hall [meetings]. There’s an assumption that this is just for adults, but it’s not. Even though we’re not able to vote, [the government] still represents us,” said Ferrell.

 

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