Central Times

Area high schools respond to Florida mass shooting with walkouts, plans for demonstrations against gun violence

Laaiba Mahmood, News Editor

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With a strong-willed refusal to let the school shooting on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, located in Parkland, Fla., disappear in the news cycle, high school students across the country have turned to protests to not only honor the 17 lives lost but also express their concern about gun control and restrictions to politicians.

The most common form of protest students have adopted is walking out of school. On Twitter, numerous national walkout dates are being circulated. Some are meant solely to honor the 17 people who were killed from the Feb. 14 shooting, while others are meant to catch the attention of politicians to advocate for stricter gun laws.

On Feb. 21, students from numerous schools in Chicago and the suburban area staged walkouts, including students at Oak Park and River Forest High School, Schaumburg High School and Neuqua Valley High School. Other schools in the area are opting to more thoroughly plan walkouts for later this semester, including Naperville Central High
School.

At Neuqua Valley High School, students walked out at noon and stood by a flagpole for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people who were killed as a result of the Florida high school shooting.

Soha Khatib, a junior at Neuqua Valley High School, participated in the walkout, which was unofficial and was not sanctioned by school administration. The main reason she participated in the walkout was because she had a personal connection with the issue.

“I have a cousin who was shot in the eye on the South side of Chicago and shot again in the leg so he’s been a victim to gun violence several times,” Khatib said. “Gun violence is something that occurs too much and that’s why I took a stand with it because I’ve always been one to use my voice and to make sure I was heard.”

The Neuqua administration was not supportive of the approximately 200 students who left their classrooms and 75 students who were actually able to leave the school building at the time, but Khatib hopes that students will take these walkouts as an opportunity to get involved in issues they want to see fixed and causes they believe in.

“People always say that walking out of school and standing by a fflagpoleisn’t going to do anything but I can’t even put into words how empowered each of those students felt today,” Khatib said. “Once we get that empowerment we start doing it more and soon we’re the ones in our government and running it. We’re not going to stay kids forever, we’re going to be adults at some point and if we don’t start learning how to voice our opinions and voice our beliefs now
then we’re never going to learn how.”

At Naperville Central, students are planning a walkout for April 20. On Feb. 21, student organizers and seniors Lauren Anderson, Nathan Bryk, Josie Norgren, Ben Russell and Megan Troke began to distribute a document detailing their mission and tentative plans for the walkout. The full text of this document can be found at centraltimes.org. This group of student organizers decided to only plan one walkout for the national walkout date of April 20.

“I think there are pros and cons to it being a quick turn around response to Parkland because I think that’s powerful and honors the 17 victims,” Anderson said. “I also think that there are benefits to having it down the line like the national one because there is more time to plan things we want at our walkout.”

Russell shared that the walkout they are planning will consist of more than simply leaving the premises of the school building.

“We’ll be having guest speakers so [there will] be things happening,” Russell said. “The official speakers that we have now are Val Montgomery who is running for state representative for Illinois’ 41st district, we have a mom, Holly Joy, from Moms Demand Action, a couple of our own students will be speaking and then we’ll see where it goes from there.”

Norgren wants Central students not only to take April 20 as an opportunity to leave school but to make their voices heard.

“This is such a big conflict that affects everyone,” Norgren said. “This could happen anywhere so it’s important to get involved and stand up for what you believe in even if you don’t have everyone’s support. It’s going to take time to change things but this is just one step that will lead to bigger things.”

District 203 administration is currently discussing how to support students and the cause. Central principal Bill Wiesbrook plans to meet with the five leaders of Central’s school walkout.

“While at this time there is not a school-sponsored event planned, it is important that you know we are not telling students they will be suspended for participating in these student-lead events,” Wiesbrook said in a Talk203 issued on Feb. 22 as an administrative reponse to the news of a student-led walkout.

 

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Area high schools respond to Florida mass shooting with walkouts, plans for demonstrations against gun violence