FHC students prepare to participate in national school walkout


Almost a month ago, our country was rocked by another school shooting tragedy. To show solidarity with the students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, a group of FHC student leaders has organized a walkout on March 14 at 10 AM for 17 minutes

The exact time that the walkout will take place is not random.

“The walkout will be March 14 at 10 a.m., which is during third hour,” junior Maia Cieply said.” It will last 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims of Parkland.”

Exactly one month after the shooting, students from every grade, every walk of life, and almost every school around the country will participate in a nationwide walkout. Already, students everywhere are protesting and lobbying to keep a shooting from happening again. However, the walkout on March 14 is a bit different. It’s not necessarily meant to be political. It’s meant to make a statement. The walkout is to remember those who lost their lives in the Parkland shooting and to hopefully keep something like this from happening in schools, or anywhere, ever again.

“We are trying to take as much of a position that is not political,” Maia said. “We want as many students as possible to participate, so we encourage everyone to interpret what the walkout means to them personally. Our main goal is to promote the idea of unity. We want to show whoever is listening that even high school students can use a strong voice and come together to fight for more safety in schools.”

Junior Maddie Vonk, who is also one of the student leaders organizing the walkout, adds that it is also a way to show support for the families of those who were injured or lost their lives. The community in Parkland has taken a hit to the heart, and as fellow students, Maddie believes that students should show support.

“I would really like to emphasize that we do not mean for this walkout to be only for specific political ideals,” Maddie said. “When people hear about it, they automatically assume that the walkout and the people organizing it are out to get them. But we aren’t, I swear. We just want to see a change happen, and it’s up to us to talk with each other to compromise and create the best solution possible. It is also important that we use those 17 minutes to honor the victims of Parkland but also of past shootings, their families, and communities. In order for this to be powerful, [people must] put political differences aside and do [their] best to prevent the walkout from adopting a radical political agenda that it was never meant to have. It should be about empathy and change.”

Already students have begun to take “sides” on the issue, and many students are very vocal about their opinions. The leaders of the walkout are encouraging students not to look at this from a political standpoint.

“I think that being against the walkout is a perspective you choose to adopt,” Maddie said. “At the core, we are marching to honor the lives lost to gun violence and show that we want a change. The people that oppose the walkout have interpreted it politically, but we tried really hard to make the protest as inclusive as possible. It’s obvious to all of us that something has to change, and it’s up to you to fill in the blank with your own solution. If you still feel strongly against the walkout, stay in your classroom. Be my guest. Staying inside gives you just as much of a voice as going outside. So really no matter how you look at it, the walkout is an inclusive protest for all. It is also honoring the lives lost; so if anything, choose to honor the innocent students and teachers that are no longer with us.”

The administration cannot take a stand for or against the walkout, but they have made it known that no student will be barred from participating.

“Any student who wants to participate will be allowed to do so, no matter what their reason,” Principal Steve Passinault said. “As long as they are not causing a disruption.”

Obviously, though, the administration can’t sit back on their heels while a significant amount of the school population leaves the building. Students’ safety is the school’s top priority, and therefore, they have to take precautions to make sure that the walkout is a safe experience.

But, as every student has their own take on the walkout, some students are choosing not to participate and therefore staying in the classroom to continue their learning.

“We will use non-teaching staff and teachers who have prep period to help supervise the event,” Passinault said. “Teachers who have third-period classes will continue instruction.”

Although it has taken a lot of work, communication, and overcoming obstacles to make this walkout happen, everyone who has put their heart into it this past month feels very strongly about its importance. There is no question that there are students at our school, in the leadership group and not, that feel a connection to this tragedy.

“I moved here sophomore year from a small town in Connecticut 11 minutes away from Sandy Hook,” Maddie said. “I’ve witnessed first hand the power of guns and their ability to decimate communities. I do not want this to happen again, and I think we have the power to prevent it; we just need to work together and compromise with Washington and our state governments. You forget that tragedies such as this can touch you. Sandy Hook was incredibly humbling and gave me a level of empathy that I think it is important we all have.”

And those who have invested in the walkout hope others can see what they are trying to say: not just those in our school but everywhere around the country.

“I want to show that we have the power to rally as a student body of minors that cannot yet vote,” Maddie said. “A lot of people have told me that they don’t think this will yield anything of significance because we’re too young to have a voice, but look at the media coverage of the students speaking out! We can make a difference. It’s extremely pessimistic to assume we have no voice because we are too young. We have to care. We can’t just sit around and do nothing. That’s what we have been doing for the past decade, and look at all the tragedies that have occurred. If raising our voices for 17 minutes could save one life somewhere down the line, I think the walkout is absolutely worth participating in.”