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#NationalSchoolWalkout at Stockbridge: The April 20 School Safety Rally
May 22, 2018
Receiving the automated message that our school would be closed for February 14 due to a gun violence threat seemed so out of place for how utterly normal that day had been, just the Tuesday before Valentine’s Day as students had muddled around the halls that afternoon with the same gray haze that inhabited one of the deceptively longest days of the week.
There was a universal chill in the air, not because of the weather, as a dull silence resonated in disbelief, only to be filled with horror as it could be realized what was being said. To most, it terrified, but there were some that it impassioned.
Senior Zabrinna Yannella reacted by deciding to take up the movement against gun violence at the high school with her peers after the threat that shut our school down on the same day as the Parkland shooting.
“Sometimes you get in this mindset that because you live in such a small town that is usually pretty safe, you are exempt from those kinds of situations.”
“Once we got the threat, everything became so much more real for me,” the other organizer, senior Kali Roskowski, added. “You don’t really think it could happen to you.”
On Valentine’s Day, a day that seemed like any other, 17 lives were devastatingly lost in the Parkland school shooting.
National walkouts were scheduled on March 14, the one-month anniversary of the shooting for students to honor the lives of those individuals, and there was a second on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, for both the major shootings.
While a school walkout was previously scheduled for March 16, the event was discarded after vehement protest of the community and rescheduled as a school safety rally by the organizers for April 20 to join the Columbine High School remembrance.
To help ease the tension, the organizers emphasized many times, “This rally is not against guns. That’s not the case.”
The purpose was, as Roskowski put it, “To inspire an intellectual conversation, a productive conversation, because none of that is happening, and to provide an outlet for anyone who feels unsafe in the school.”
The rally, located in the new gymnasium, followed the format suggested by the #NationalSchoolWalkout movement ran by Ridgefield High School students Lane Murdock, Paul Kim, Max Cummings, and Grant Yuan in Connecticut, a leading force on setting up and coordinating walkouts in honor of the Columbine victims.
The school safety rally began at 10:00 a.m., although it did not run the course of the school day as the movement called for.
The event lasted approximately 20 minutes as the participants held a moment of silence and a prayer for the victims, followed by reading off poems and statistics about gun violence across the United States.
The organizers handed out white carnations to represent all the victims of school shootings.
“School violence is a growing epidemic, and it’s not just these two major events that to be addressed,” Roskowski said.
During the event, students promoted a common purpose.
When asked why she attended, freshman Jenisys Henley-Wild said, “Ever since I heard about the shooting down in Florida, I have been more passionate about wanting to change the way people see how gun violence is affecting our country.”
The plethora of tragedies inspired the want for change in some youth, and the rally was one manner of expressing their emotions behind it.
“I thought it’s time for someone to start spreading kindness and wanted to get tips on how to do that,” said junior Bethany Plennert.
While similarly supporting their cause, freshmen Wyatt Whitaker and Luke Suojanen agreed that the school feels safer than last year with the installment of our resource officer.
The organizers were very pleased with the outcome of the event.
“There was a lot more people than I was expecting,” said Roskowski of the turnout.
“I wasn’t expecting many people to come, just because of the backlash we’ve gotten,” Yannella added, who acknowledges that there is an opposition to the rally’s cause, and there are those who
oppose the walkout.
Her words of advice to them are a reminder: “Anyone has the right to do what we’re doing. Anyone in the school could have done something like this.”
To show support, students who did not want to or did not have the chance to participate in the rally may interact, either with a smile or a small conversation with 17 people they do not know well to foster a positive school environment.
Perhaps a little kindness among classmates can save lives.