Among all the ruckus following the Parkland Shooting, high school students have begun to organize walkouts all across the country. These protests have been seen as a voice without action that have little potential to create real change. With no stated policy to prevent what has taken place, any and all protests are essentially useless without direct action and solutions.
As I watched my student government begin to plan for a walkout, there were many precautions that were taken to ensure that this would be an all inclusive protest while not taking any particular stance as far as policy was concerned. I immediately recognized this as an issue when they began planning this. They were instructed by our advisor and school administration that this event could in no way be endorsed by our student government and had to be done on our own time. It was then taken out of our current agendas only to be worked on as a side project during class. Students that were about to print posters to advertise the walkout were quickly stopped by advisors and told that any effort to advertise their event was forbidden, as it could not involve school resources. This was an immediate roadblock to what these students had in mind. Without proper resources, ideas, and policy changes in mind, any protest of civil involvement is essentially useless.
The walkout consisted of approximately 30 people and lasted for about 20 minutes. The messages were clearly centered on the idea of school safety but simply lacked answers and solutions that could make our schools safer.
There is no doubt that this situation could have been prevented if it wasn’t for the countless errors by the FBI who missed comments the shooter made on social media, and then the gross negligence of police officers who stood down while the lives of 17 students lives were prematurely ended. However, the answer is not to have students leave class and miss out on learning. The first and foremost action that ought to take place following any tragic event should be the remembrance of all victims.
Realizing that the best way to honor the victims is through actual reform, I took to Twitter to help my peers understand this premise. One of my peers was encouraging other students to join the walkout on March 14th (which is directly promoted by the Women’s March organization). This peer was sure that the purpose of the walkout was to honor the victims of the Parkland school massacre, however, according to the Women’s March website, this is inaccurate. The website states the following: “We are walking out for ALL people who have experienced gun violence, including systemic forms of gun violence that disproportionately impact teens in Black and Brown communities. It is important that when we refer to gun violence, we do not overlook the impact of police brutality and militarized policing, or see police in schools as a solution.”
So this march is more than remembering the victims of Parkland. The Women’s March is using this to promote their agenda. They are manipulating the youth. This is wrong and I tried to help my peers understand this. Instead, I was met with borderline hostility as they chose to misunderstand me. Just because I think that the walkout is not a good way to remember the fallen, somehow I am callous and insensitive, but I should be able to express myself just like the marchers. If I choose to stay inside during the walkout, that’s my choice. Their rights to march do not trump my right to free speech.
While listening to my student government and the reasons for the march they’d planned, I thought to myself once again, “What will this achieve? What do you suggest we change?” They continued to say that this was simply about school safety and that our schools need to be safe. This seemed futile to me because they still hadn’t come up with any real solutions. Stomping of feet, raising of signs, and screaming repetitive rhetoric is essentially useless without any plans to help change the future that we are expected to live in.
While it is absolutely essential to present solutions following these crises, it should not be done in a way where so called activists stand on the graves of the victims to push their agenda.
The biggest problem with these walkouts is the lack of knowledge on the subjects. When a large mass of students come together to express the same misguided opinions, this has the effect of reinforcing untruths among large numbers of students. Facts and truth don’t change, no matter how much passionate emotion is stirred up. While the voices of students have the potential to invite change, high school students simply don’t have the experience and knowledge of seasoned professionals.
Students like David Hogg and Emma González (survivors of the tragedy in Parkland), quickly took to social media and politicized the event as much as they could. These students are not experts and not what our country ought to look to when making changes in the law. Students will always have a voice but when an uninformed opinion quickly takes over the internet, young, impressionable people are no closer to solving a problem that they should have a stake in. Especially a problem that directly impacts their lives, and about which they are clearly and understandably distressed.