Northwest students participate in March 14 walkout


Aidan Bennett

Northwest students participated in the national walk out on Wednesday, March 14 at 10 a.m. The students met in the football field for 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.

Students walked out of class for 17 minutes yesterday morning, March 14, to honor the 17 people killed in the Parkland shooting in Florida last month. This is only one of many walkouts that took place that day; some estimates report more than 3,000 schools participated in this walkout nationwide.

Senior Alex Hooijschuur was one of yesterday’s participants.

“The turnout was a bit underwhelming, but considering our school and the beliefs that are typical at this school, it was fair enough. I’d say there were 50 or more people,” Hooijschuur said.

Two snow days on Monday and Tuesday led to a lack of communication and confusion for some students who, as they headed into their second period classrooms, didn’t know if the protest was even going to take place. Also, it was observed that during the 17 minutes, the students did not remain silent as was the intention to honor the Parkland victims.

“The lackluster crowd behavior that we exhibited would have been the same regardless,” Hooijschuur said. “The large majority of the people there just wanted an excuse to get out of class, but this is as good of an opportunity as ever.”

Another walkout with seemingly more fervor and advanced planning will take place April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting in 1999. Columbine is considered one the biggest modern school shootings and the first to alert the public to an issue within schools with mass shootings.

The April 20 walkout is specifically about ending gun violence, according to organizer and sophomore Savannah McCracken.

“A lot of people assume that we are trying to advocate for gun control or taking away guns,” McCracken said.

We are tired of watching our peers die, and so we’re standing up to say, ‘Something needs to change and now.’ ”

— sophomore Savannah McCracken

The movement of protesters at Northwest are simply asking for a solution, not any specific type, such as gun control or mental health checks. McCracken also realizes that students may not be in a position to make a judgment call about how to solve the problem of gun violence in America, especially in where the issue intersects with mental illness.

“We need different gun control if we need to protect our children from the mentally ill, [but] not every mentally ill person is going to shoot up the school,” said McCracken. “However, the Second Amendment comes into question when the mental disorders cause people to become violent, so what then? I’m not in a place to answer that question.”

There is disagreement, however, within the ranks of the protest. Junior Miranda Long in particular has different views of what should be accomplished by the protest.

“I personally think that gun control is necessary, and we should ban all AR-15s over this,” Long said. “But I recognize that that isn’t a likely solution.”

McCracken has the opposite view, but she agrees that a solution is needed.

“We’re looking for other solutions such as security and mental health solutions, and come to a compromise,” McCracken also said. “Something needs to change, but gun control won’t help.”

The students of Northwest are protesting to make a change and to be a part of history. Student protests have been in the public eye since the Tinker V. Des Moines Supreme Court case in 1965 when students wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. The ruling of this case determined that students in the U.S. have the right to protest, as long as they do so without disrupting the learning environment.

The student protests at Northwest and nationally are following in the footsteps of the Tinker v. Des Moines ruling by making sure they have full support of the administration, like with the Grimsley and Page walkouts earlier on Feb. 23.

The March 14 walkout was supervised by all administrators and teachers with first and second period planning to ensure it was safe and efficient. It was also monitored by School Resource Officer Matthew Parsons.

The April 20 walkout will also have the school resource officer in the protest area in order to assure safety, since it is assumed at this point in time that it will be bigger than the March 14 walkout.

“I am in full support of our students and will do whatever they needed to make this protest safe and to allow them to exercise their First Amendment Rights,” Principal Ralph Kitley said.

Both walkouts have inspired students to take a stand for their beliefs and have led to the student body becoming more politically informed.

When McCracken first learned of the Parkland shooting, she said she was “horrified.”

“The children who survived went to social media started demanding that people give more than their ‘hopes and prayers’ because after so many school shootings, it’s time we started doing something,” McCracken said. “We can’t just sit back and look at these terrible things that happen and say we hope they’re okay, because it’s not enough.”

Long agrees.

“It has to be us,” Long said. “We have to make our voices heard, because [otherwise] they don’t care about us, and they won’t listen to us.”

The administration is listening to Northwest and is in full support of the protests.

Whether you participated in yesterday’s walkout or not, another opportunity on April 20 will take place at 10 a.m. for 30 minutes in the bus lot. Teachers and students alike will be allowed to walk out to share their message.

“We are tired of the same thing happening over and over, and nothing changing. We watched it happen with Sandy Hook, and all these other shootings, and now Parkland’s happened; it’s one of the deadliest school shootings yet, “ said  McCracken. “Do we need to demand that laws are passed to protect us? As the youth of America, we should be the nation’s top priority, or one of them. And it feels like they’re fine with letting us be killed.”