“Enough is enough. There has to be a change to these heinous acts of violence…We believe that school should be a safe place were we can learn and grow as people,” stated Madeline Triff and Haley Evans as they spoke to their fellow classmates during the Oyster River High School walkout.
On Friday April 20th, 2018, many Oyster River High School students and teachers walked out of classes and stood in silence for 13 minutes in memory of the Columbine High School shooting, and listened to their fellow classmates speak on the issue of gun control. Students heard their peers share concerns about their safety within school after the Parkland High School shooting that happened earlier this year.
Even though the walkout was a national event, the planning specifically for the Oyster River walkout was done by the Oyster River Student Senate. The ORHS administration gave their support in the form of a safe place for students to protest.
Although the walkout was not sponsored by the school, administrators and teachers made every effort to make sure that students did not feel as if their voices were being stifled.
“I think they [administrations] handled it very well…although this was a completely student run organization, they were very accommodating to our needs and mostly left us alone and let us plan. Overall I think it went very well and I hope people are moved because of this,” stated Laurel Gordon (’19), a student senator, who spoke during the event.
Many who walked in the event felt that it was the best way to funnel frustrations they have had with the government’s response, or lack of it, to the many school shootings that have happened recently.
Acadia Manning (‘21), who decided to participate in the walkout because of the recent school shootings, stated, “I think that having to go to school for education and not knowing if we are going to come back safe or not is not something anyone should have to deal with.”
Many of the Oyster River students who participated in the walkout agreed with Manning’s thoughts, that student safety should be the overarching concern people have when it comes to the controversial gun control debate.
Liz Forcey Rodriguez (‘20), who participated in the protest, stated, “I am doing the walkout because I believe that too many people have access to guns that should not have access. It needs to be controlled, and I have the right to feel safe in our school.”
Student safety, and being able to learn in an environment that nurtures creativity, was not only on the mind of the students but also the faculty. Many of the members of the administration and staff looked at what the students were doing as hope for the future.
Mike McCann, ORHS Dean of Students, said, “I’m proud of our students for taking a stand for what they believe in and making their voices heard. I think it’s important that students have a voice, and this is about student safety… I think it went very well; people were out here for the right reasons.”
Many of the students participants looked at the walkout as the best and most respectful way to voice their opinions and frustrations with gun control laws.
“I think education is a really important thing and that we should be able to go to school and not have to worry about it.” stated Abby Ashe (‘21), a participant in the walk.
Dr. Morse, superintendent to Oyster River Cooperative School District, saw the event as a push in the right direction by young people, and he was extremely proud of the students for showcasing their voice in a way that was respectful and represented American ideals.
“We believe in our students. We believe in their capacity and their intelligence and commitment. They all took it very seriously and it was powerful. Think about taking Oyster River’s response and multiplying [it] across the country, and that’s a loud message. I am excited for this young generation because you are right on the cusp of doing the thing that needs to happen which is vote. So I think there is real change on the horizon.” said Morse.
The administrators made every effort to show that they respected the decision of teachers and students to express their beliefs and concerns on the topic of gun violence, and made sure that any student body or faculty member who wanted to participate or not could do so without fear of being punished or ridiculed.
Despite the accommodations made the by school board for those who wanted to participate in the walkout some thought that it was not enough. A few students, including Liz Forcey Rodriguez (‘20), did not think that the alloted time allowed them to properly state their point, and instead decided to stay after the walkout had ended to continue their protest. The students who decided to do this, were watched by faculty members until they decided to leave or return to school.
The walkout ended with most students feeling as if their voices had made an impact within the community, and looking forward to the day when they are able to cast their vote.