The Californian

Student walkouts continue

John Symank, Staff Writer

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After years of mass shootings on school campuses, students have finally decided to do something about it. 

Sparked by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who suffered the deadliest high school shooting in history on Feb. 14, students nationwide have taken action to push for stricter gun laws by staging several walkouts and rallies across the United States.

Working in conjunction with the group that arranged the women’s marches last year, hundreds of thousands of students walked out of class last week and in March.

The first walkout occurred on March 14, at 10 a.m. when students left class for 17 minutes to honor the 17 students killed in the Parkland shooting.

Hundreds of Cal High students and several teachers participated in this walkout and gathered in  front of the school. A group of students even laid down on the grass to represent the bodies of those killed in Parkland. 

Senior Jillian Weber spoke in front of the students, reciting a piece of slam poetry about gun control in the U.S.

“The people elected, people sworn to represent what’s best, they care more about what’s in the bank than the safety of the children wanting an education,” said Weber in a segment of the poetry piece. 

Some students believe that something should have been done years ago.

“This needed to be fixed a long time ago,” said senior Kristiana Nestler, “and it’s time for us to make sure it is.”

School administrators observed the walkout, but did not do anything to halt or hinder it. 

“This issue was too important for us to punish students for,” said assistant principal Bob Spain. “If students can’t go to school and feel safe there’s a much bigger problem. I was proud of our students for taking the initiative.”

Administrators asked for rosters of students who walked out from teachers.

“The order [for rosters] came directly from the superintendent,” said drama teacher Laura Woods.

Other students believe that the problem lies in the fact that many Americans feel gun control is a slippery slope.

“The problem is that people are scared of change,” said senior Sidney Dutcher. “When people put restrictions on guns, it makes them think that they’re taking the guns away.”

Teachers Nick Patton and Laura Woods were among a number of teachers who observed the walkout nearby to see what happened. 

“What changes is up to you guys,” said Patton. “That’s why these are so important, so that you have a voice. The change will be made on what the youth decides will change, and soon it’ll be your turn to make these decisions.”

The second walkout occurred on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado. 

This was the first mass shooting at a school in modern American history. 

The two shooters killed 13 people before taking their own lives. 

The event rocked the nation, and was the beginning of an era of shootings similar to it. 

This walkout was a full day, unlike the previous 17-minute walkout in March.

“This movement is part of an ongoing conversation that is taking place following the tragic school shooting in Florida,” superintendent Rick Schmitt wrote in an email to parents and staff, “While students will not face school discipline for student political action, it is important to know that disorderly conduct that disrupts school operations is not acceptable and will be handled compassionately, but firmly.”

Schmitt also said that students who left class on April 20 would receive a partial unexcused absence, which means that they will be marked as absent for part of the day.

“I don’t think the kids are going to walk,” Woods said before the April event. “Seventeen minutes was a good length and I feel like parents aren’t going to be OK with a full day. That and this hasn’t been publicized nearly as much as the first and I feel like would be important.”

Due to concurring school events and miscommunication, Woods was correct in her prediction. Only seven Cal students participated in last week’s walkout.

While the walkouts had low attendance at Cal, students nationwide walked out in order to express their beliefs on the matter and pressure lawmakers to make change in gun laws.

“Walkouts are extremely important because since we can’t vote, we have to voice our opinions in another way,” Dutcher said.

The walkouts are both memorials and protests. 

The students are memorializing the many people killed in mass shootings, and protesting so that this doesn’t happen again. Students are calling for tighter gun control laws from the federal government.

“The other thing is that the constitution was written centuries ago,” said Nestler. “Back when they had muskets that took forever to reload, and not ARs that you can spray.”

Students are calling for the government to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks before gun sales, and pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior. 

“People need to step away from their greed and self-centered ways,” said Weber, “and take a look at respecting people and their beliefs.” 

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