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Students come together against school shootings in protests such as the National School Walkout

Students+sitting+in+hallways+at+Bergen+County+Academies+during+the+National+School+Walkout
Students sitting in hallways at Bergen County Academies during the National School Walkout

Students sitting in hallways at Bergen County Academies during the National School Walkout

Students sitting in hallways at Bergen County Academies during the National School Walkout

Peter Mitelman

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On March 14, it was apparent that many of Bergen County Academies’ students were filled with emotions, ranging from frustration to devotion. They were some of the students from all around the country that took part in the National School Walkout protest demanding the government to pass laws against gun violence.

In BCA, a number of students agreed to participate. “I personally chose to walk out because I wanted to make a statement,” said ABF junior Sophia Wolmer. “We need to raise awareness about issues of school safety and the impact of gun violence.”

The event was 17 minutes long in honor of the 17 teachers and students who were tragically killed after gunman Nikolas Cruz carried out a shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida exactly one month prior to the walkout. 17 others were injured.

The administration supported the walkout, but only by asking students to sit in the hallways quietly as a sign of protest. Many students, however, felt this was not a true protest nor would have a significant impact. “I was not going to sit in the hallway,” Wolmer said. The students at Stoneman Douglas died because the government is failing to protect its citizens.”

Students protesting outside Bergen County Academies during the National School Walkout

Still, a lot of students recognized that being asked to stay indoors was mainly because the staff wanted to keep them safe. Unlike BCA, some schools such as ones in Cobb County, Georgia , did not support the walkout at all and even penalized students who participated.  “If all administrations were as supportive as our high school, the difference would have been phenomenal,” ABF freshman Heba Elsetouhi said.

Others also recognized that that restricting the protest so that it is safe and in control was also important. One AVPA student stated that “they [administration] supported the one in the hallway and not the one outside because it jeopardizes students’ safety.” The student went on to add that the walkout nonetheless had an important purpose. “I think it’s necessary at its heart. It shows unity around the country.”

Dozens of student protesters went outside in front of the school, holding signs and chanting phrases such as “enough is enough”, “never again”, and “protect kids, not guns”. Shortly after, everyone participated in a few minutes of silence for the students who were shot.

People driving along Hackensack Avenue witnessed the students’ passion and desire for a society in which going to school was not a reason to experience fear.

Within the last decade, tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting back in 2012,  as well as both the Orlando nightclub and Las Vegas attacks in 2016 and 2017 respectively, contributed to a growing discussion about gun violence and a demand to do something before it gets out of hand. “I walked out because I believe in gun regulation,” one AAST freshman said. “There have been so many school shootings this year and the year isn’t even half over. Too many students have died because people have the ‘right’ to guns.”

The protests at BCA and at schools throughout the United States were aimed at conveying the message that an educational environment, as well as the country, as a whole should be safe. “I hope walking out will be one small stepping stone where students can attend school, and simply live their general lives, without the threat of being shot dead,” said AVPA junior Eboni Edwards.

Before the senseless Parkland attack in February of this year, numerous other school shootings, many of which were deadly, had occurred in the United States in 2018 alone. “I think it is beyond ridiculous and beyond disgusting that countless innocent students have been murdered in schools,” Edwards stated.

Considering how much encouragement the BCA staff provided, many saw that the need to take action was unanimous and so the issue should not be a political one. Elsetouhi said that without the support of the BCA staff, “we wouldn’t have been able to protest as much.”

In fact, yet another overall objective of the walkouts was to prove that this is not a political debate and that the Parkland shooting was the tipping point for action regarding gun control regardless of one’s political party. That being said, arguments still unfold.

“I agree how important it is to show unity, but I don’t agree with how people are making it political,” an AVPA freshman explained. The specific action that must be taken next has not been decided upon. Some, including President Trump, propose arming teachers. Others suggest installing metal detectors at the school’s entrance to better detect guns, or that teens such as Cruz, the Parkland shooter, should not be permitted to own firearms. Still others disapprove of all these ideas due to the fact that many believe that owning guns is a right and further gun control would be going against the Second Amendment and the Constitution as a whole.

On March 24th, ten days after the National School Walkout, the March for Our Lives took place. It further showed the nation’s anger at Congress’ nonintervention. While the demonstration was mainly in Washington D.C., it was organized throughout the rest of the US as well.

“The only way to bring attention to these ideas is to protest,” ABF freshman Maria Savransky said. Even more grand than the National School Walkout, the march displays how important it is that the matter cannot be postponed any longer. Just four days before the March for our Lives, another school shooting occurred in a high school in Maryland where two students were wounded and the gunman was killed. A resource officer took charge of the situation before it could get worse. He was claimed a hero by the school for responding immediately.

The events occurring throughout the country affect all American citizens in some way whether they have been personally touched by them or simply have strong feelings about future policy in the country.

“Obviously, we can’t completely stop gun violence,” Savransky admitted. “However, I think the walkout helps show that we aren’t okay with what’s happening. And that leads to change.”

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Students come together against school shootings in protests such as the National School Walkout