The days following February 14th marked a dramatic shift in the way America approaches gun violence. Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida witnessed firsthand the true horror capable of a semi-automatic rifle. Yet instead of calling for a moment of silence, they rose their collective voice. Instead of asking for prayers, they demanded change in a flawed system that allowed the massacre of their classmates. Galvanized, united, and inspired by these brave high schoolers, students throughout the nation assemble, manifest and protest in order to raise awareness of the incessant and exigent issues of rampant gun violence and maintaining school safety.
Simon Darrow, a freshman at Terra Linda, helped plan the walk out at Terra Linda this Wednesday, March 14th, the month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Inspired by brave, resolute and articulate Parkland students to use his voice in protest of gun violence, he’s been using social media (and even more old-fashioned methods such as handing out flyers) since mid-winter break in order to generate hype and spread awareness of the walk out. “Hopefully, over time, the movement will lead to positive legislative and cultural change,” he optimistically explains, though he laments the over-politicization of school safety in regards to gun-control, which he argues shouldn’t be polarizing, but unifying.
While Terra Linda is generally a very progressive community regarding student freedoms, there is a lack of resources for students pursuing activism. Overall, Terra Linda High School and the affiliated Dixie School District lack strong Civics and Debate programs. However, some teachers (especially those leading English and Social Studies programs) infuse their curriculum with lessons that highlight the importance of actively participating in society. TLHS is introducing new English courses that revolve around themes of social justice and identity in literature in order to encourage more civic adolescent participation.
Fortunately, Terra Linda Principal Katy Dunlap is supportive of student activism, though the administration is legally obligated to maintain a neutral stance regarding polarizing issues such as gun control. In a recent memo to teachers (available on Terra Linda’s website, https://terralinda.srcs.org/), Dunlap advocates for student’s rights, specifically stating “While we do not condone students missing class, we do support their First Amendment rights to free speech and to assemble.” She emphasizes the movement’s relevance and capability to be used as an opportunity to educate about civic protest and engagement and clarifies the protocol teachers and administration should follow during the walk out.
Terra Linda’s feminism club is attending the event and plans to promote and help students pre-register and register to vote, encouraging students not only to protest policies but to actively participate in democracy by voting.
Across the entire nation, students walking out on March 14th show not only their solidarity with Parkland victims, but their refusal to watch silently as recurring mass shootings rip through American schools and communities like wildfire. Despite the politics surrounding gun control and regulation, students come together and demand dialogue, hoping to succeed where previous generations have failed: changing culture and rewriting legislation to assure school safety by ending the proliferation of assault-style weapons and school shootings.