Jack Lelii | Staff Writer
Lucy Harris | Staff Writer
While some students stayed in their seats for 17 seconds of silence, other students chose to walk out of school to join a national youth movement to end school violence.
March 14, National School Walkout Day. Millions of students took the time to honor the 17 victims of the tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Some students voiced their opinions and decided to walkout.
Mason Middle School was one of the schools that took the time to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland school shooting. At 10:00 AM, all participating students and teachers took a moment around the flagpole, planted flowers, made signs, etc. Eighth-grader Della Johnson participated in the walkout.
“It was 17 minutes of honoring the lives lost. We held up signs and put ‘enough’ on them, and it was a really good day,” Johnson said. “The mood at the walkout was silent and respectful, nobody was really shouting or was angry, we were all pretty upset about it, but no one was violently protesting. It was peaceful and silent. We released balloons in the air (there were 17 of them), and they kinda represented the lives that have been taken and we were honoring them. We planted orange flowers because orange is the color of the walkout, and we were representing the shooting that happened. It was just really great.”
Millions of people are voicing their opinions using social media, making petitions, protesting. America is getting hit hard with criticism, because some other countries aren’t having these same problems. According to Council on Foreign Relations America has about 40-50 percent of the world’s guns. The United States also has the highest homicide-by-firearm rate among the world’s most developed nations. Johnson said America’s gun control policies are inadequate, and shootings could be prevented by having stricter gun control.
“Personally, my opinion on gun control is that there needs to be more of it. America hasn’t been really big on gun control, well the government hasn’t been at least,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen in governments like the UK or Australia, with more gun control present, that there has been less school shootings and less shootings in general. I feel like that’s more of what we need to do in order to prevent innocent lives being lost.”
Not only did MMS do a walkout, the school permitted a petition that students could sign. At the first two lunches, there was a poster that you could sign that is for gun control. Many kids went up and signed it, in hope that the posters would go to the government. However, seventh grader Mikaela Wainscott does not believe that the petition is going to do anything, or go anywhere.
“We’re one school. It’s not going to the government because only a small percent of people signed it,” Wainscott said. “But if it was the whole school (that) signed then yea, maybe.”
MMS teachers and administrators weren’t going to accommodate a walkout in the first place because of safety concerns. Wainscott said she didn’t attend the walkout because of that same reason.
“I have mixed feelings about it, because there is a part of me that says ‘guns shouldn’t be available for younger kids,” Wainscott said. “I wouldn’t participate in something that could get you in danger, like going outside and letting everyone know. Possible school shooters could know that everyone is going outside and they can be like ‘oh they’re going outside so it’s going to be easier to attack.’ So it’s easier for them.”
Teachers and principals also have a concern about the students safety. Greater Dayton area middle school principal Justin McCollum said that he had mixed opinions about his students doing the walkout and voicing their opinions.
“We had walkouts over two days –Feb. 28 & Mar. 1– with about 289 students participating overall,” McCollum said. “I truly like to hear students’ thoughts and voices, but I personally feel that walk outs do not have a long standing effect that impacts change. We have had 17 school shootings this year with 40 students injured or killed this year in public school systems, we need to take a look at the reasons students make this decision.”
McCollum said that he had to make many safety adjustments before he allowed his students to walkout.
“To keep students safe, we kept them in the building and gave them a location to be heard and show their support for this cause,” McCollum said. “It is hard for me to allow students to protest school safety by going outside where I cannot control the dangers. Our staff takes student safety incredibly seriously and we want to make sure as many of our students feel safe within our buildings as humanly possible.”
As the debate of gun control bounces back and forth over America, laws and adjustments are trying to be made. Seventh grader Braeden Fedders said that he thinks that gun control policies should be stricter in America.
“It doesn’t make sense to me because, in Ohio, (you can) go to the store if you are over 18 and you can buy a gun,” Fedders said. “You can also, with that gun you can buy things to add on to it, to make that gun somewhat automatic or fully automatic it should not be allowed. Why do you need a fully automatic weapon to kill a bear or a burglar that’s in your house. You don’t need that, all you need is a handgun. You do not need that, I just feel they should be, like they should. Obviously, guns should be legal. I believe in guns. Guns are really good for protection from other people or animals and stuff. But you do not need a fully automatic gun, there is nothing you need to add to a gun.”
Another conflict that is going on with gun control is mental illness. The debate of whether it’s the guns or mental illness is ongoing. A large amount of people think it’s mental illness, because usually the shooter has some kind of ‘illness’. Fedders also believes that mental illness is the real cause behind the person with the gun.
“I feel like there’s three things that need to be fixed in order to solve this school shooting issue,” Fedders said. “One is mental health. People of America need to fix themselves, like we need to focus more on mental health. I feel like it should be something that needs to be checked. Maybe it could be checked annually, or maybe even monthly, or something like that. We just need to focus on that with more of teachers and parenting to focus more on the mental health. I feel like friends and peers should, they should talk about and tell an adult if they think if someone is having mental health issues. I really think someone needs to do that.”
A thought is that there needs to be more security in schools. More resource officers, metal detectors, etc. Fedders said that schools need to have more officers, or just more security outside and inside schools.
“Now, the second thing is the security, I think we need better security,” Fedders said. “Well, with the Parkland shooting there was that security officer at the school and he was there and he decided not to do anything. He feared for his life so he left school and we can not let that happen. And also I don’t think we should rely on human resources like security and an officer. We need equipment, maybe even like a metal detector, a gun protector, or something of that sort. And maybe not every school because not everyone can afford it or maybe someone wants to donate that. And the other thing is, obviously is gun laws. I feel like, as I said earlier, you should not have, some of these weapons should not be illegal and well, you don’t need these attachments to a gun like that.”
While some turn to increase of security, stricter gun control, etc., others turn to building stronger connections between students. McCollum said that he thinks stronger connections with students, could prevent these incidents.
“Student voices are important in school safety issues and I truly believe students are the remedy to all school violence,” McCollum said. “As humans and students, we need to be more empathetic of others, be less judgemental of differences, and learn to step in to help each other. If everyone was treated with respect, many of these tragedies would be avoided.”