On March 14th, from 10 to 10:17 a.m., high schools across the country will be walking out of their classes for a variety of reasons. Some are protesting lax gun laws that have allowed many shooters to accumulate military arsenals worth of semi-automatic machinery that can decimate a body. Some are protesting the inefficiency – or lack thereof – of school security, permitting just about anyone to enter the building. And some are only leaving to avoid 17 minutes – timed so that there is a minute per victim of the Parkland shooting, exactly a month before the walkout date – of math class. Yet the message is unmistakably clear: students are tired of being used as target practice.
Despite the openness of surrounding school systems, such as DeKalb and Marietta City, Fulton County has remained bent on forbidding the walkout, claiming it is “disruptive” and “distracting” and offering alternatives that are extremely ignorable and whose impact is almost laughable next to the obvious, clear message that a student walkout would have. The lack of importance given to students’ voices is clear, and it is disappointing that Fulton would prefer to give hours to discussing the purchases of class rings or even to cancel school because of a football game yet cannot find it beneficial to permit this exercise of the first amendment. But, at least at Johns Creek High School, many students are planning to walk out anyway – and here’s why.
As someone who has been helping to plan the walkout and ensure it is organized and orderly, I can speak from a point of authority to say that our walkout is more inclusive. Although the national walkout was originally proposed by the Women’s EMPOWER group, a leftist, liberal group that is advocating this event as a gun-control protest, the Johns Creek walkout plans to be less political, less partisan and less specific. We are calling for student participation to advocate for SAFETY in whatever form that an individual chooses to call for it. For some, perhaps this is heightened security. For others, perhaps this is gun control. However, by not labeling it as pro- or anti-gun control laws, we are trying to include everyone and make everyone comfortable in participating, since this is an issue that affects everyone now.
Clearly, our government will gridlock when it comes to gun control discussions. The topic of what is and is not permitted under the second amendment is a hot-button issue, one that is never a short discussion (even amongst people with a similar idea of it). Yet many schools are ticking time bombs. Plans – although fake – were drawn to map out a possible shooting at Johns Creek. Shots were fired at Dalton High School today, February 28th. Weapons have been found on campus at South Forsyth and Dunwoody High Schools within the last few days, and there are many other examples I could cite that are immediately and geographically relevant to our students. In the meantime, we need to pause our gun control debates and immediately focus on stopping violence NOW. When a wound happens, a bandage is placed over the wound to stop immediate bleeding or infection before the surgery occurs. Our bandage, therefore, comes in the call for security.
This is an immediate call to action; just because it is not extreme in one stance or another – we are not marching out at Johns Creek High School for private citizens to have their guns taken away any more than we are marching out for teachers to be forced to arm themselves – does not mean that we do not have an opinion. It means that, rather, we recognize the need for something to be done now.
Because of this nonpartisan approach, we anticipate having participants from all over the political spectrum. We anticipate showing a unity that has not ever been seen before as we show that we feel that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Everyone – both Democrats and Republicans – have been hurt in school shootings. Therefore, we all will walk out together to show that all students recognize how important it is to feel safe while receiving an education.
Is it distracting to walk outside for 17 minutes? It’s more distracting to fear getting gunned down during your chemistry lab. To have your class interrupted by the principal having to reassure everyone that the threat, in fact, is not real and that your school will not be the next Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And, although thankfully I cannot speak in concrete terms to it, it would probably be distracting for the rest of my life to be replaying my best friends being massacred next to me as I pretended to be dead or constantly rehearing the sounds of my teachers barricading the door as former students lead a killing rampage down the hallway.
I cannot bring an opened bottle of water onto an airplane. Too much shampoo is a red flag. Yet I could bring a backpack full of explosives tomorrow, and nobody would know until it is too late. After 9/11, airport security increased dramatically. After two or three concert shootings, concert security increased dramatically. Yet how many shootings do we need to occur for school security to see that dramatic increase? How many people – innocent kids who are excited for their turn at show and tell that day, teenagers who have just committed to their dream college, coaches who are ready to take their teams to state or teachers who just got engaged – have to die before we realize that the current system needs a change?
That is why we need everyone to come together on March 14th, a month after the Parkland shooting, to both remember the victims and to raise your voice and call that “enough is enough”. If the government is going to gridlock over gun control issues, let them do it while we are safe inside a building, continuing our education as we prepare to be the next generation leading the country. Have the debates without us fearing our safety. Work for our national betterment while we work for our personal betterment. We have already established the right to an education in this country, so it is time that we uphold it.
Johns Creek is not, unfortunately, bulletproof (pun intended). One day, I hope that it is – or might as well be. But we cannot do this without you. We need each and every student who cares about their safety, their younger siblings’ safety or even just the safety of the future of their country to join forces with us and the rest of the nation to say that enough is enough. Keep us safe. We need their help now – and "we" includes us all.