Less than a week after the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Ridgewood High School has formed an initiative to address the prevalent issue of gun violence: Students Demand Action. The club is a student-lead coalition purposed with fighting for a right to feel safe within schools. Similar student activist movements have cropped up all across the nation in response to the issue that very much affects the youth. The overarching national organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, has stated as its mission, “We are determined to fight for our lives, our dreams, and our communities. And we will not stop until all American students are allowed to feel safe in their classrooms.”
On March 14, Students Demand Action will lead a school-wide walkout to protest inactivity regarding gun violence. The walkout marks the one-month anniversary of the Parkland school shooting and will last 17 minutes for the 17 victims who lost their lives. A few representatives of the club will speak about gun violence prevention and how to make sure an incident as horrific as Parkland never occurs again. Leading up to the RHS walkout, students will speak about two of the victims each day on the announcements to honor their lives. Each of these victims was a musician, an athlete, or an academic who shared something in common with the RHS student who will speak about that individual’s life.
The walkout is part of the larger #Enough campaign led by the Women’s March. This national movement takes a much broader stance, rallying against violence not only in schools, but also in minority communities and beyond U.S. borders. The Women’s March youth movement has organized another walkout on April 20 to protest Congress’s inability to take substantial preventative action against gun violence (the last time anything significant has been done by Congress was 1993). The Parkland survivors themselves have also organized a #March4OurLives event in Washington, D.C., on March 24 in order to directly put pressure on the nation’s capital for action.
But with so many different organizations and movements working to end gun violence, it’s important we don’t confuse the message of our own Students Demand Action group. Mia Lowy, one of the leaders of the club, stated, “We are anti-gun violence, for the sole purpose of a safer tomorrow. We are not anti-guns, but want common sense regulation with respect for the second amendment.” It’s important we understand, before forming any opinions on the club, that its purpose is to campaign against gun violence in schools, not against the use of all guns.
Lowy continued, “We are joining other schools around the nation to show that America today is not how it should be. We believe that school should be a place where we feel safe to learn and grow. By standing in unity, we can make change for the future.” The club will continue to promote this message through the events that it’s organizing after the 14th, including a march on the 24th (a local #March4OurLives) that is wider in scope, encompassing the entire village of Ridgewood and neighboring towns. Supporters are encouraged to wear orange, the national color of solidarity for students who are protesting this issue.
What’s most important is that we form a community allowing one another to express their beliefs in an intelligent and informed manner- in certain other schools across the nation, such expression is not allowed, with students who leave class on March 14 facing punishment for their actions. The Students Demand Action club encourages those who wish to support the movement as well as those who have concerns about it to come to Room 205 during lunch to join the conversation. The essence of this movement is about inclusion and communication between different perspectives so that students are able to find a common goal regarding safety in schools.
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Graphic: Kayla Kern