About 250 Yosemite High School students joined thousands of high school students across the country on March 14 to honor and pay respect to the 17 people killed last month at a Florida high school.
An announcement was made over the school’s intercom system that all classes would hold a 17-second period of silence, and then students who wanted to participate could gather at the Senior Park on campus for 17 minutes.
The student’s used the 17 minutes to stand in silence and to reflect on the Florida tragedy.
Senior Charlotte Borough held her home-made sign above her head that read “17 People, Not 17 Excuses - # Never Again.”
“The sign I made was about how everyone is using this shooting as an example of multiple things including the reason to have gun control, background checks and mental health issues, Borough said. “The reason for doing this walkout at Yosemite High is for school safety awareness and to remember the 17 victims from the Florida shooting. The Yosemite High staff was aware of the walkout from an email that they received, but it was up to the students to walk out of class or not.”
Kelsie Wasem, a junior, was in her art class when the announcement was made.
“That was a terrible thing that happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and I think its wonderful to honor the students that were killed,” Wasem said.
YHS student Joe Wallo did not participate in the walkout and posted the following comment on social media: “As a student that didn’t participate in this walkout I feel as though these walkouts have become more about politics and pushing gun control then they are about the lives lost. I told myself this morning that if I didn’t here one student say “We need to get rid of guns,” I would go to the walkout but I hardly made it to first period.”
Loralee Bergdall, another YHS student who participated, said on social media, “ We stood in silence for those our age (and older) who were slaughtered in a school much like our own. No matter your political stance on guns, our walkout was to stand for those who can no longer stand for themselves. It’s disheartening to see how many adults assume we were turning it into a political statement. Speaking with many of my peers, they echoed the same reason for joining, to honor those who died. You may think we are young and dumb, but we grew up watching those around our beautiful country lose their lives to gun violence. Children in Sandyhook. Movie goers in Aurora. Lastly, I invite those who shamelessly attack (the intelligence and motives of ) teenagers to engage in respectful dialogues with students. As a country, it is time to listen to each other, to strive for understanding and change. Change starts with you. And I am proud to say that change showed itself at YHS in the form of silent vigil.”
Across the country, demonstrations were not limited to school campuses. In New York, students marched in the streets, while in Washington, sign-carrying students gathered in front of the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Nationally, some school districts encouraged walkouts, while others threatened disciplinary action against students who participated. Yosemite High School neither encouraged or threatened. After becoming aware that students were organizing YHS’ staff efforts were focused on ensuring that protocol was in place to guarantee the safety of students participating, as well as, those who chose not too.
The nationwide protest also demanded lawmakers pass stricter gun control laws, according to EMPOWER, the group organizing the action. The organization is asking Congress to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks before gun sales, and to pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.
It is unlikely that officials in Washington will quickly act on the requests. Although Florida last week raised the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days, President Trump on Monday reversed his earlier remarks to seek national-level reforms that the National Rifle Association opposed.
The NRA released a prepared statement on March 14 that read in part:
“In the aftermath of the evil and senseless attack in Las Vegas, the American people are looking for answers as to how future tragedies can be prevented. Unfortunately, the first response from some politicians has been to call for more gun control. Banning guns from law-abiding Americans based on the criminal act of a madman will do nothing to prevent future attacks. This is a fact that has been proven time and again in countries across the world ... In an increasingly dangerous world, the NRA remains focused on our mission: strengthening Americans’ Second Amendment freedom to defend themselves, their families and their communities. To that end, on behalf of our five million members across the country, we urge Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry reciprocity, which will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence.”