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Still in tears for our students after school walkout

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

The fact that our students are afraid of being killed at school is unfathomable. We have to get busy.
City students hold signs for school safety

City students hold signs for school safety /Kymie Spring

City High Middle student, Aimee

City High Middle student, Aimee /Kymie Spring

By Kymie Spring, Community Organizer, Creston Neighborhood Association

I went to City High Middle School well before Columbine or any of the massacres that followed. We felt totally safe then. Later, when I taught elementary school, we had fire drills, not shooter lockdown drills. So through my tears, it was challenging to video the student walkout event on March 14, 2018 at City High Middle. The fact that our students are afraid of being killed at school is unfathomable.

With the support of our superintendent, the school was well prepared for the community to attend. We were welcomed, asked to sign in and given a name tag. We waited in the warm cafeteria until hundreds of students started streaming outside, many with signs that included,

  • AM I NEXT?
  • One Child is worth MORE than ALL the guns on Earth
  • Fear Has No Place in School

While more students amassed, a small group lined up behind the microphone holding photos of the most recently fallen.

The principal, Ryan Huppert, spoke first, thanking the community for coming. He spoke directly to the young people, expressing that he was very proud of the students who both organized this event and the large numbers of those who chose to leave class to have their voices heard.

Then the students, each tenderly gripping a photo of one of the 17 victims murdered in Parkland, Florida, came up to the microphone and spoke the name of the person killed. While there was a moment of silence for each, students were clearly making the effort to respectfully hold the photo so that it could be clearly seen by all. Lord help me.

Two students organizers spoke next, the first, Ellie, choked up while speaking. Every word she shared was powerful. She began by talking about the question she’s gotten from the media, “What steps are you actually taking to make a change?” She made a plea to her peers, “I hope that your involvement in the community and with our government doesn’t end after today. I encourage everybody here to keep fighting and to be strong with your voice, regardless of your age. For the first time ever, people are listening primarily to the students and the victims. Nobody is trying to step on our toes. This is our space to talk and enact change.”

Some other notable excerpts from her speech:

“We’ve been the victims of 100 school shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012 and that’s not OK.”

“Make sure your Representatives never forget them. They’re adults and they don’t know because they’ve never been the victims of anything like this.”

“We won’t be complacent and let that happen.”

“This is not a partisan issue, it’s not Democrat vs. Republican or gun control vs. no gun control. Regardless of your party, no one agrees with school shootings and for children to be dying.”

In addition to encouraging older students to register and vote, she also strongly urged younger students can take action as well, imploring them to write letters to elected officials and participate in the March For Our Lives rally at Rosa Parks Circle from 12 p.m.-3 p.m. on March 24, 2018.

Gabriel spoke next making a powerful plea for those already 18, or becoming of voting age soon, to register to vote. She was responsible for setting up a registration table inside the school. She began with, “This should be the last time that we even have to do this. We shouldn’t have had to do this in the first place and the fact that we as students are subjected to fear everyday that we walk into school. It has been made clear by the current administration and politicians today are not going to do something without us standing up.”

Gabriel continued, “Our next local election is on May 8, 2018 and even local elections can be incredibly significant in terms of making change on a small scale and a large scale.” She ended with, “We can make positive change happen and we can make schools the safe environment for learning. Enough is enough. This is the last time. It has to be.”

What has become of the state of our democratic process?

I asked this question when I spoke afterwards with a 15 year old student, Aimee, who was involved in the protest event.

Her response: “It’s just sad. I think too many people have had to lose their lives. Everyone and all of us can agree that school safety is important and as long as that idea is the main focus, the right decisions can be made.”

The young Aimee was clearly heartened by the turnout from media and adults from the community, which were plentiful. And she thanked me for being there. She stated, “Sometimes it’s hard to look for that hope. To see that people in the community are listening is a big leap forward.”

From the mouths of babes. Even those scared and frustrated.

When I explained my role as the Community Organizer with the Creston Neighborhood Association, she lit up, asking if we were working on the school safety issue because she wanted to get involved. Almost embarrassed, I explained that no, we were currently inundated with other issues, especially our concern with possible zoning changes that could force many of our families out of the neighborhood. She seemed to understand the importance of that effort and offered her email to keep in contact with CNA, willing to help, if and when.

If and when? We have to get busy.

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