“No more silence! End gun violence!” The call echoes across the courtyard as students chant the mantra again and again.
“We wanted to stop school shootings and keep our students safe, our teachers safe, our schools safe,” Kelly Trang, Student Leadership President, said.
Students flooded out of class during a walkout on March 14 to protest gun violence in schools in the wake of recent school shootings. Similar walkouts and protests occurred across the country.
“We stand here, ready to show our commitment to our education and our safety, in solidarity with the lives lost at Stoneman Douglas High School,” Senior Aly Schneider said in a speech at the event.
And that’s what students did. Classes stood largely empty as students rallied to show their support.
“I like that young people are so connected to what’s going on with the world outside of their own high school; it’s easier, now than ever, with the internet, but the fact that almost my entire classroom left and was involved in this protest I thought was amazing,” math teacher Michael Hammond said.
The walkout even gained support from individuals outside the direct school community.
“We thought we were going to be able to stop it with Columbine and then Sandy Hook and it’s just rampant,” Priscilla Ledbury, grandmother of a student, said at the protest.
In leaving their classes, students sought to make those outside of the school aware of student perspectives.
“It is clear, now more than ever, that we as young people have a voice that is finally being heard,” Schneider said. “Our communities are listening, our leaders our listening and the nation is listening. We can make a difference.”
The message was not lost on outside observers.
“[Events like this are important] to raise awareness among not just students, but to get the whole populace to understand that it’s time to stop this nonsense.” Rhonda Whitney, another grandmother, said.
Action from students at Stoneman Douglas High School and protests from schools across the country have yet to yield solid results. In Florida, legislation was passed to further gun control, but nationwide results are limited. On March 20, another shooting occurred in Maryland, leaving two students injured and the shooter dead. However, the power behind the walkout left inspiration in its way.
“The fact that it was nationwide and almost all high schools throughout the nation contributed to this walkout — including almost all our entire school — I think that’s what made it so powerful. It shows that not just young people at GW, but young people around the country are paying attention, so we’re just a small part of the bigger thing here,” Hammond said.
Students see it as a chance to advocate for the future they want to see.
“We’re going to be the future. So if we’re using our voice to talk about this issue then that’s what the future’s going to be. If we’re this motivated to arrange something like this, this is what it’s going to be in the future,” Trang said.
If students want to express their voice, they can be politically active.
“Reach out to your representatives and vote for politicians that have the same passion for social justice that you do,” Schneider said.