Academy Chronicle

BCA Students Plan to Participate in National School Walkout Day

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As a reaction to the February 14, 2018 school shooting at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Bergen County Academies students who are interested in participating will take action in relation to the organized National School Walkout Day in support of change in American gun laws.  Participating students will take time out of the school day on Wednesday, March 14th- exactly one month after the fatal shooting- to commemorate the lives of students tragically taken in the Parkland shooting. Beyond this remembrance, students will use the time to support their beliefs on the issue of gun control. 

Student Council, the main organizer of this BCA event, communicated with the school’s administration on behalf of the student body, and together they agreed to grant time off from class in order to commemorate and take action. Although this was a student initiated idea, BCA Principal Russell Davis made clear that administration has offered its full support. “I hope that the day leads to self reflection, and that it leads to what every adult and every student can do to make the school safer.” Mr. Davis added, “While I totally agree with  making sure that the national voice is heard, we also need to concentrate on what we as a school can do, and I think it’s important for us to do that during the march.”

With approval from school leadership, Student Council was able to structure the event in a nonacademic, yet all-inclusive, manner. In walkouts throughout the country, students will be joining one another to protest against certain gun laws; and while Bergen Academies will give students the opportunity to voice their opinions, the program will also remain conscious of the different viewpoints that students hold. Students who might be in opposition to this event will be respected for their choice not to participate.

In regards to the structure of BCA’s Walkout day, the event will start during a seventeen minute period around 10 am in which students will walk outside their classroom and spend 17 minutes in silence in order to remember the 17 victims of Parkland, Florida.  Following this remembrance, throughout the day, booths will be located in school for students to take action by writing letters to Congressmen, to the students at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School, or to companies either in alliance with or against the views of the National Rifle Association. These events will be completely optional to all students at Bergen Academies.

Student Council President Michael Murphy explained these programs are a way to address the varying viewpoints that might exists within our school on the topic of gun control. “BCA’s Walkout Day will not be directly targeting a certain ideology, but rather it will offer an ability to show your stance, whether or not it be in support of gun control. This has largely been a process of ensuring that we would all have equal opportunity to express our ideas and beliefs.”

Inclusion is seemingly a major school-wide goal for the Walkout because of students who may not agree with pushing gun legislation. Sophomore Ryan Coohill says that he has certain doubts about participating in the day’s events. “Personally, I am a supporter of the Second Amendment,” he said, “so I would much rather participate to show support of the victims rather than work towards a legislative change.” The events planned for Wednesday, March 14th were designed for this exact purpose of providing students with the chance to embrace their individual opinions.

Despite this apparent division of viewpoints, polls show that the majority of the Bergen Academies student body is in support of a change in gun laws. In November 2017, juniors Matthew Casey and Ethan O’Malley from the Academy Global found that just over two-thirds of student respondents believed that there should be stricter gun control throughout the country. While by no means is student opinion in unison on this political issue, a clear majority in support of legislation does make itself apparent at BCA.

“I will definitely be marching because I’m a strong supporter of increased gun control,” sophomore Melissa Rose said. “I think many of my peers can agree when I say that I’d like to go to school and not have that fear that someone could come in with a weapon and threaten the lives of my classmates, my teachers, and me.” With this clear majority opinion, it is crucial that BCA’s walkout event also incorporate actions beyond remembrance, such as those which move toward concrete change, which was the purpose intended by the original National School Walkout organizers.  

The organizers of the National Walkout Day planned for March 14th to be an event specifically geared towards legislative protest. Mrinalini Chakraborty, Chicago-based Head of Field Operations and Strategy for The Women’s March, has been working extensively with the Women’s March Youth Empower group to organize the national event for next week, and she stresses the importance of students taking a concrete stance against gun violence in their towns.“The symbolic gesture of solidarity for this walkout cannot be stressed enough; there is incredible show of power and strength in hundreds of thousands of students walking out simultaneously,” Chakraborty said. “It sends shock waves throughout the system. But from another angle, this may be the moment in which groups of youth get politicized, and realize the power of organizing. It truly makes me think that this is just the beginning.”

Whether or not students choose to protest through letters to Congress or simply pay their respects to victims, March 14th will surely be a day for all students to become involved with a national political issue that impacts them directly.

 

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BCA Students Plan to Participate in National School Walkout Day