My audience for this blog series is anyone who is (or should be) concerned by the massive number of school shootings: students, parents, and anyone interested in safety and social justice. I will be focusing on the movements made by high school students who have been taking charge of the fight against gun violence. My goal is to make people think about how they can participate in this fight for life.
If you’ve watched the news over the past few days you are probably aware of the Walk Out by students across the country on Wednesday. Sick of nothing being done in Washington about gun violence, teens coordinated the first national student protest on this issue. They hoped to bring an awareness of their voices and of the political power that they will soon hold. And politicians should take note- these teens, users of social media for most of their lives, will soon be old enough to vote and make their voices known at the polls. Boomers and Generation X have so far not been as focused on this topic, and it may be because they were not affected by it personally. And millenials, still a voting minority, have not made much progress with it either in spite of being the Columbine generation. Living in daily fear of school violence is a way of life for students, unfortunately normalized by our political climate and dedication to 2nd Amendment rights. But why isn’t anything being done? Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough anymore, and these students want us all to know that.
But of course there are those with the alternative solution. A solution that so far hasn’t worked. Ryan Petty, a parent of a student recently killed in the Parkland shooting, tweeted that students should Walk Up not Walk Out. In his opinion, walking out is accomplishing nothing beyond the students getting some exercise. His proposed solution would include students “walking up” to loners and making them feel appreciated so they don’t turn into school shooters. This post was in turn shared by thousands of parents across the country who thought students walking out was pointless. But I ask- is this victim blaming? If you aren’t successful with converting this potential shooter and it results in violence, is it your fault? Walk Up shows how out of touch some parents still are with the fear that children are facing, and in this case even includes parents of victims.
Walk Up belittles the point of Walk Out. No one is saying that you can’t walk up to a lonely student and talk to them, but that can be done any other day. This walk out was about the fact that these students want to be heard. They want the adults to help them. They want laws to protect them. They want politicians to represent them. On Wednesday, they didn’t need hugs- they needed voices.
This movement reminds me of Castell’s writings about the Occupy Movement, and there are plenty of similarities. Occupy was “rooted in outrage” (p. 166) which resulted in the fast propagation across the country. Students are clearly outraged about their peers being shot, and that resulted in a successfully organized protest in less than a month after the Parkland, Florida shooting. Everyone needs to be wary of the power that these children will one day hold. Their world is built around social media, and they are not limited to classroom gossip anymore.
We need to listen. Really listen to what they are saying. We may not agree with everything that they are asking for, but with what they have been through, they deserve our ears. Instead of thoughts and prayers we need to think about what we can do to make their world a little safer. So don’t belittle their voices by saying that they should be doing something else instead. Listen.
They will not forget.