by Brandon Biagini & Trinity Tran, STAFF WRITERS
23 March 2018
EXTREME ABOVE: Students participate in the March 14th walkout, staged at Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of Lorie Shaull and Wikimedia Commons. ABOVE: East students participating in the March 14th walkout. Photo by Ben Schmidt.
As the clock struck 10 on the morning of March 14th, East students rose from their seats, and made their way to the door. The hallways were lined with hundreds of students taking part in a national walkout a month after the deadly shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida. Joined with thousands of students across the country, young students united to send a message and exercise their First Amendment rights.
A community unites for change
Students that participated were eager and enthusiastic to be part of a national movement. Many of them were glad to see the community coming together to remember those killed in the shooting.
“I chose to walk out because I wished to honor and respect all those who lost their lives due to the tragedy in Florida. I felt that since they can no longer walk, I should walk for them. Appreciate and cherish the life I have, for them,” senior Derek Barrow said.
Students from various organizations all contributed to the walkout in an attempt to truly represent the entire student body. Posters made by NHS members hung from the walls with the names of those who died, along with little snippets of how they left their mark on the community.
“I thought the walkout was awesome. Paying tribute to those kids was a really respectful thing and a great way to memorialize their life,” junior Trevor Borden said.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of students across the school district were responding in some way to the national walkout, and some East students saw this an impactful and positive response from the community.
“I wanted to show solidarity with all the students across the country that have been victims, and be part of the effort to get something done, get some legislation passed to make students feel safer and make some real change,” senior Damien Malak said.
Senior Gillian Enriquez echoed the importance of the East community coming together to call for change.
“[I participated in the walkout] to show my support. Even though just walking out by myself wouldn’t make much of a difference, the fact that we are doing this as a community is what is making the difference,” Enriquez said. “It was a fresh reminder for a lot of us that we are still a community. This school is still our home, and because of that we should still encourage change.”
Senior Ethan Poetsch was glad to see the discussion of what should be done in the wake of Parkland coming to light in a civil manner. The walkout gave East students the opportunity to talk with fellow students about the situation.
“I think that a lot of the time we like to argue instead of bringing up points from both sides and try to have a discussion. I think something like the walkout helps to bring light to the discussion and make it more civil,” Poetsch said.
“I appreciated how they wanted to bring our school together, but I think they could’ve saved that aspect for another day. I believe that [March 14th] was a day to voice our opinions and peaceably protest.”
— senior Kourtany Katzen
Thoughts and condolences are not enough
But not all students were on board with the way the walkout was planned. After participating in the walkout in hopes to be a part of a national movement, there remained a significant amount of students that felt that East’s walkout fell short.
In a majority of schools across the nation, March 14th was a day filled with young voices paving the way for political and social change. Students gathered outside their schools with politically charged signs, chants, and speeches in a plea for action.
East’s intention was to provide an opportunity for unity in a time where divisiveness oftentimes transcends community.
“This was able to include everyone instead of singling out people with separate beliefs. We can all agree that a school should be a safe place, no matter your opinions on different subjects,” senior student leader Alyssa Cabang explained.
This intention while welcomed by some, was criticized by others.
“What happened in Parkland was a terrible, terrible thing. I think the problem with our walkout was the students in Parkland explicitly said they wanted change, not prayers and thoughts. Our walkout was just sympathy not action,” senior Kourtany Katzen said. “I appreciated how they wanted to bring our school together, but I think they could’ve saved that aspect for another day. I believe that [March 14th] was a day to voice our opinions and peaceably protest.”
Principal Laura Bankowski indicated that the intention for the day was captured entirely by the different ingredients of the morning, which included the broadcast video, the walkout, and the 17 acts of kindness.
“The school walkout was done in unity with the national date,” Bankowski wrote in an e-mail to this publication’s staff. “Students were encouraged to speak their voice and to write letters to their Congressperson if they chose to do so. Additionally, we were able to highlight the issue of school safety and encourage us as students [and] staff of East to come together as OnE unified school working toward positive social change.”
Many news outlets showed students, parents, and teachers demanding policy and change rather than condolences and prayers. Senior Aashi Patel stood behind their demands as she agreed that sympathy without accordant action amounts to nothing.
“In my opinion, the whole point of that day was not only to memorialize those who passed but to stand up for what we believe in. Mourning and sending our thoughts is simply not enough,” Patel said.
She said that the act of roaming the hallways was not as meaningful as they had anticipated as a majority of people stayed huddled by their friends, essentially deeming it as a “glorified passing period.”
“I did what was instructed, I introduced myself to teachers and students in the hallways. I noticed a lot of people were just sitting around or talking to their friends which was upsetting,” Patel noted.
During the walkout, students were encouraged to meet 17 people to symbolize the loss of the 17 people in Parkland, in an attempt to promote camaraderie within the student body.
“I think that it would have been more effective if we all met in one area, such as the commons, because the way we were all spread out throughout the school and yelled at if we moved too far made it hard to really unite together. They had good intentions, and I understand that,” Patel said.
Barrow added that while he understood the safety concerns that administration had throughout the morning, the walkout could have been less confined within East’s hallways.
“My experience was neither positive nor negative, but somewhere in between. Walking through the halls was a positive experience. Sadly, I was stopped by a dean and forced to return to my original hallway,” Barrow explained. “I understand their concern for students walking out, yet their measures impeded my chance to respect those who had passed in a way that I felt acceptable.”
A prominent objective of East’s walkout was to eliminate politicization in order to prevent animosity and tension within the school. Junior Dasha Pates criticized this as she believed that the walkouts across the country were intended to cause debate and controversy.
“What happened in Parkland was a tragedy and atrocious, and if that’s not enough of a catalyst to spark discussion then something is terribly wrong,” junior Dasha Pates said.
Whether or not the majority of students agreed with the way the walkout was planned, these nine students appreciated the intent of the administration. What happened in Parkland could have happened anywhere, and people across the country acknowledged that school safety needs to be at the forefront of our minds.
On March 14th, the students and staff of East walked out. They all walked out for various reasons.
They walked out for school safety.
They walked out for political reasons.
They walked out for school unity.
They walked out to remember those who lost their lives.
They walked out to exercise their First Amendment Rights.
They walked out for change.
Brandon Biagini and Trinity Tran are staff writers for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL