By Sandi Khine
10:00 a.m. local time. 17 minutes. Across the nation, students ranging from elementary to high school participated in just one of over three thousand school walkouts to raise awareness for victims of gun violence—more specifically, those in minority and student communities. What took place on Wednesday is full of symbolism: Mar. 14 marks the one-month anniversary of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the walkout lasting 17 minutes to honor the 17 innocent lives taken in the tragedy.
Youth from cities across America and Women’s March Youth Empower organized the #ENOUGH National School Walkout to have their voices heard on critical issues such as police brutality and gun violence. Although many are eager to participate in the walkout, students have voiced concerns over attendance and in some cases, college admissions. Fortunately, several colleges have assured students that receiving suspensions for walking out will not hurt their admissions processes.
Additionally, Arcadia High School (AHS) AP Human Geography and AP U.S. History teacher Mr. Gerry Wang notes that “the Supreme Court has already decided that although students do have freedom of expression, within a public school setting it is appropriate to limit free speech if it poses an imminent threat to the safety of the student community. The walkout to commemorate the Parkland shooting is more closely aligned with” the Tinker v. Des Moines case, where the Supreme Court declared student protest (in U.S. public schools) against the Vietnam War constitutional.
One such walkout in Arcadia was organized by AHS seniors Frank Lee, Sarah Lee, Sean Lee, and Yumei Lin. They “hope that [the walkout] will be the first step of many that Arcadians take in confronting this issue and that the momentum from this event will lead to productive dialogue and change.” This particular rally was intended to be apolitical, with no affiliations with Women’s March Youth Empower and advocated for solidarity with Parkland and a safer school environment. Nearly 500 students appeared at the rally, sharing in a series of speeches, a moment of silence, and the signing of a banner that will be sent to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
AHS sophomore Chelsea Ju walked out with hundreds of peers and recognized that the “Parkland victims cannot stand by themselves, which is why students all around the nation are participating in this walkout.” Many students murmured their reasons for walking out, some political and some not, but there was one sentiment they all shared: a desire for a safer learning environment.
There is no doubt that education plays a significant role in the struggle for American democracy and student socio-political engagement. Mr. Wang recognizes that “teachers equip students with requisite knowledge and skills so students can develop informed rational perspectives on sociopolitical issues” and that “education is the key to generating a citizenry capable enough to keep our democratic republic alive.” There is no doubt that in Arcadia; students are receiving a stellar education that prepares them with the tools necessary to take socio-political action.
At Arcadia Unified, AHS administration took preemptive measures to protect the students’ safety during the walkout while maintaining a neutral stance. Arcadia Unified Public Information Officer Ryan Foran noted that in Arcadia Unified, “the student voice is a critical and essential part of our school district.” School officials provided platforms for students to have their voices heard, and “principals listened to their students and wanted to ensure that they were as safe as possible, so they took the extra time and thought to provide safe environments on campus.”
READ RELATED ARTICLE: Arcadia High Students Walkout Wednesday in Solidarity with Students around the Country
The fight to increase awareness of gun violence will not end with only one walkout. Women’s March has a “March For Our Lives” scheduled for Mar. 24 in Washington, D.C., with sister marches across the world, including one in downtown Los Angeles. Following these marches, another school walkout will take place on Apr. 20 to mark the 19 years that have passed since the Columbine shooting. Though critics may argue that protests will not stir any action in government, the rising generation of youth struck with calamity will assuredly vote and create a positive change in society. No matter what, students and youth will continue to band together, take action, and advocate for their beliefs not only among their local communities but also in politics, the government, and beyond.