On Wednesday, March 14, a group of Montevideo High School students joined other students across the country in the nationwide school Walk-Out in a show of solidarity for the students and faculty who lost their lives at the Parkland School shooting that occured on February 14.

On Wednesday, March 14, a group of Montevideo High School students joined other students across the country in the nationwide school Walk-Out in a show of solidarity for the students and faculty who lost their lives at the Parkland School shooting that occured on February 14.

Among the students who participated where Emma Runyan and Hazel Jacobs, both seniors this year. Jacobs said that initially, students were supportive of the Walk-Out movement, but became weary when someone associated the movement with the word “protest.”

“About two and a half weeks before, I was talking to a girl and somebody used the word ‘protest’, and after she heard it her face immediately changed,” recalled Jacobs. “The connotation that people have associated with the word has become icky, just repulsive to so many people, which is really saddening. Since fourth grade we’ve been taught about when Rosa Parks was arrested for boycotting the public transportation system. The history of stand-outs or walk-outs or sit-ins have been taught nearly our entire lives.”

When Runyan and Jacobs walked out, they were accompanied by around 20 other students and faculty.

“I was hoping that people didn’t walk out as an act of rebellion,” said Runyan. “Nobody did and I was glad that we had a discussion. There wasn’t just one person saying ‘this is why we’re out here,’ because there were many students out there for differents reasons.  It was in memoriam of the 17 victims, but it was also about making change because nothing is changing.”

Jacobs and Runyan, along with others who participated in the Walk-Out faced criticism that day.

“One of my main points was regarding the question ‘what do you think, as an individual leaving school today in the cold, what do you think you’re doing?’ And my immediate response to that is if everyone had that attitude, the attitude that we can’t do anything, that we should sit around and hope for change, then it wouldn’t come.  Action is the way to change, and if you want it you have to work for it,” said Jacobs.

“It was all over the nation, and there was a lot of news coverage, so people saw it.  People talked about it and are still talking about it, so clearly we did something,” added Runyan.

Because of the wave of criticism and possible consequences, students who wanted to participate were discouraged from doing so.  

“There were a lot of people who talked to me and said that they wanted to do it, but that they were afraid because they would in trouble with their parents. One of my good friends said that she wanted to do it, but she had to work after school and wouldn’t be able to make up the time,” said Runyan.

Before the Walk-Out, the school sent out an email notifying students that anyone who participated in the Walk-Out would be required to make the 17 minutes up after school.

“After the Walk-Out I was mad at first, thinking ‘I have to waste 17 minutes of my day after school for doing the right thing,’ but then I thought ‘I have 17 minutes to waste, and not just the Parkland victims, but everyone who has died from a mass shooting, they don’t have that time and I do. It got taken away from them,” said Runyan. “This hasn’t affected me or my immediate family, but it’s something I’m passionate about and care a lot about.

“If you feel like the problem at hand can’t touch you, then you settle for it and it’s okay,” added Jacobs.

In the weeks leading up to the movement, the internet tried to replace the Walk-Out with a walk-up to approach ‘unpopular’ kids and sit with them at lunch, therefore reducing the risk of these kids becoming school shooters.

“Replacing the Walk-Out with a walk-up is the most convenient and ineffective allyship and support that you can give, it does nothing. My friend said ‘I’m one of those kids who sit alone, and here’s the thing about sitting alone. I don’t want to shoot people because I sit alone.  Nothing about it has ever made me want to do that. The people who shoot up schools have bigger issues than sitting alone at lunch,” said Jacobs.

“During the 17 minutes that we had to make up after school, we watched a video, and the main idea was that if you are nice to people and invite them to sit with you at lunch, that will make them feel more connected and they won’t want to shoot up the school,” said Runyan “I saw people on Facebook saying ‘these kids were bullied when they were younger so that’s why they did this’.  I was bullied almost everyday in middle school because of my skin color and my hair, but never once have I considered harming any of my classmates because of that.”

The students have faced criticism from adults as well as their peers.

“There are kids who are saying that we need to have stricter gun control, and that something needs to be enforced, and there are adults who are so afraid of losing their weapons that they’re putting them above the safety of American children. On our way out of the building, there was a group of teachers saying ‘I can’t believe they’re actually doing this,’” said Runyan.

“It’s almost comical when I see adults disrespect kids who are just trying to do what they believe in. They’re not being disrespectful to the adults, but the adults are being awful to them and then tell them they’re wrong because they walked out of school or because they’re arguing,” Runyan said.  “I think a lot of adults think that children having their own opinion equals arguing with the adult or disrespecting them because we’re speaking when we shouldn’t be because we’re children.”

“I think when adults assume a position of authority over things like advice, it’s probably going to be valuable. If you want to tell me how you think I should think other people should be treated, it’s not okay,” said Jacobs.  

Runyan and Jacobs feel that Trump’s suggestion to arm more school officials will be a step backward.

“The school has already banned backpacks and cinch packs for safety concerns,” said Jacobs. “The reason why the school has a buzzer system and security magnets on doors is so people don’t get in. Why are we allowing the wrong people to have those weapons in the first place?” She added: “The thing about arming more people in schools is that we shouldn’t have to put more people in the position of getting shot in some protective, sacrificial, save-the-children way. What we should be doing is stopping the threat and nipping it in the bud, instead of having the mentality of ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, because hopefully we won’t get there.’”

Runyan noted that it’s much more difficult to acquire a driver’s license than it is a gun.

“A student has to go to classes for two weeks, four hours a day to get his driving permit. Then he has to drive for six months with an adult over 21, and then even after that, you have to take a test to drive on the road, and while you’re driving you’re constantly being monitored and it’s being regulated all the time. And if you mess up once, you get repercussions for it. You can get that license suspended. But that same student can walk into a gun store, no questions asked, and buy a weapon. It baffles me.”

The students’ biggest concern is that people will back down from the movement in fear of the consequences.

“I want stricter gun laws to be enforced. I also want people to understand that their guns aren’t just going to get taken away, and I want people to understand the severity of the issue,” said Runyan. “It’s more than just walking out of the school, it’s a much bigger issue.”

“I want people to take the voice that they have and use it as much as they can and demand for it to be heard,” said Jacobs.

The Parkland shooting was the 30th mass shooting that has occurred in 2018 alone, and it is the 18th school shooting that has taken place in the country. On the morning of Tuesday, March 20, Green Mills High School in Maryland marked the 19th school shooting to take place in U.S. history, leaving two students injured and hospitalized. Data from Gun Violence Archive shows that 1,800 people have died from gun violence in 2018 alone, and more than 3,100 others have been injured so far.

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