Three-hundred-nineteen students that teachers recorded on attendance walked-out to protest gun control on Wednesday, March 14. The topic of gun control is again in the limelight after another mass shooting, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, FL.
Hixson and Steger students also walked-out.
Seniors Sydney Cimarolli and Elliot Williams organized the high school walkout “to protest the lack of gun control measures at the local, state and federal levels,” as written in a graphic advertising the protest.
Cimarolli said students needed to protest “because nothing is getting done otherwise,without public pressure the lawmakers aren’t doing anything.”
The walkout was coordinated with #Enough National School Walkout organized by Women’s March Youth Empower. According to the womensmarch.com, 2,500 student walkouts were planned. Kirkwood High School students, like WGHS students, walked-out in coordination with the national school walkout.
The walkouts were individually organized by students at their respective high schools. The walkouts got national media attention from the New York Times, CNN, FOX, TIME Magazine and SNL.
Assistant principal John Raimondo said, “We feel good about students’ right to have a political view.” He added students have an “obligation to be in class.”
Students who walked out were counted as cutting class, but the cut could “become an excused absence if they write a statement or provide a verbal one on why they chose to protest and what they learned from it,” superintendent John Simpson said via an email to all students.
On the day after the protest, the administration sent a form to students who protested, and an announcement was made to tell them about the email and the consequences of protesting.
The form was available for students to provide a written statement by answering four questions: “What was the issue that caused you to participate in this walk out?” “Why was this issue important to you?” “How did it feel to be part of this walkout?” and “What can Webster Groves High School students, staff or administration do to improve safety at this school?”
Over 200 students have responded to the form.
Cimarolli said the organizers wanted “the event to be as non-partisan as possible.”
The administration’s primary focus was safety during the protest, according to Raimondo.
Three students spoke during the 17-minute-walkout: Cimarolli, Williams and junior Rosa Parks.
At least seven local universities said they would not penalize students during the college application process for participating in the walkout.
Washington University (@WUSTL) tweeted, “Applicants: We encourage civic engagement.”
Webster University spokesperson, Patrick Giblin, said, “It (protesting) actually helps them,” according to stltoday.com.
Students also participated in March for Our Lives in downtown St. Louis and a few in Washington D.C. on March 24. March for Our Lives was organized to protest against senseless gun violence.
“The more we care, the more they can’t ignore us,” junior Philip Freeman, who printed flyers to advertise the high school protest and attended March for Our Lives in Washington D.C., said, “It’s the issue of our teenage lifetime.”
The message of WGHS protest was “Time for Action,” a message that was inspired by the MSD students.
Cimarolli and Williams made a list of demands that they announced during the protest. They want the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to continue its research on gun violence, to digitize records of gun sales, to reinstate the 1994 assault weapons ban or instate a modern counterpart, to enact universal background checks, to limit sale of high-capacity magazines and to vote out elected officials who take money from the NRA.
According to the Washington Post, the CDC was accused of promoting gun control by the NRA when it published research based on gun violence. Congress threatened to take away the CDC’s funding if it continued to research gun violence, but in 2012 President Barack Obama tried to reverse the research ban after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. The CDC continues to avoid gun violence research even though the ban was lifted.
Williams and Cimarolli demanded a ban on assault weapons and limited sale of high capacity magazines because high capacity magazines need to be limited.
No one needs that many bullets to hit a deer if they’re hunting, or an intruder if they’re using them for self-defense, Williams said.
On March 1, Mom Demands Action were originally supposed to meet at the Webster Groves Public Library, but due to the number of people, the meeting was moved to the Hixson Middle School auditorium.
Moms Demand Action for stricter gun regulation in America is a non-profit organization that started back in 2010 by Shannon Watts after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. The organization was created “to demand action from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms,” according to the Moms Demand Action website.
According to volunteers, usually only a few hundred attend the meetings, but at the most recent meeting over 1,000 people showed up. Some members of Mom Demands Action protested at March for Our Lives in downtown St. Louis.
Following the shooting, the Board of Education held a question and answer session for school safety on Monday, March 12, at the district service center.
Via an email sent to all high school students on March 8, Simpson suggested three opportunities for students and staff to express their feelings about the MSD shooting: “Wear the school colors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (burgundy, maroon, and silver), donate in support of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School GoFundMe account, at a designated location within the school, respond to the following prompt, ‘In order to help keep my school safe, I will…’”
The crisis team, a group composed of administration, counselors, teachers, the nurse and resource officer to make peremptory measures for crises, increased the meetings to two times in the last month due to recent school shootings. Its members are currently discussing the possibility of a single-entry way, or something with a similar effect like multiple manned entry ways. The crisis team is also updating “lockout procedure,” “intruder/lockdown plan,” “active shooter protocol” and preventions.
In an effort to make the school safer, the high school administration and the central office have decided to install a buzzer on the main entrance. The buzzer allows the attendant at the main entrance to stop any intruders before entering the doors.
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