orcIn the aftermath of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students have taken the lead on gun violence awareness. Seventeen students and faculty were killed that day, with several more injured. In the weeks since, students from MSD, and others across the nation, have stood up to politicians, the gun lobby and manufacturers to say that they won’t accept anything besides change.
Today, those same students participated in a nationwide student walkout. At 10 AM, students planned to walk out of their classes for 17 minutes to honor the lives of the students who died at MSD in February.
Their actions, their words and their fight is brave. These students — especially those from MSD — are proving that students’ voices matter. Not only are they standing up to some of the most powerful people in the United States, but they’re doing so in the aftermath of a major tragedy, and in the face of adversity. These students are the leaders that we need to push us forward.
But while their fight is worthwhile, it hasn’t been without pushback. From politicians who disagree, to people who believe that students are too emotional, or unqualified to speak, to high schools that say they will punish students for participating in walk outs, this fight has not been easy. But thankfully, people are standing behind them.
We were pleased last week to read that St. John’s issued a statement regarding students participating in walk outs. Like many colleges across the country, our university has pledged to not let punishments for walkouts to affect applicants’ status.
“We support students who who engage in meaningful, informed and civil discourse regarding difficult and important issues including protest on gun violence,” Vice-Provost and Chief Enrollment Officer Jorge Rodriguez wrote in a statement last week. “Disciplinary action associated with participation in peaceful and respectful protest at your high school will not affect the evaluation of student applications to attend St. John’s University.”
And it shouldn’t. High school students nowadays — as well as many college students who walk the same hallways as we do — have been marked forever by school shootings. Students have been conditioned to think about what to do in an active shooter situation — as if it’s something normal. This is wrong, and it’s not just detrimental to their everyday experience, but it’s bad for their education, too.
Time has been up for a while on this issue, and it shouldn’t take a nationwide student walkout for people to realize this. And yet it has. But as history shows, students have the power to effect change with their words and actions. The students across the country participating in this activism know this, and they haven’t stopped working toward their goals throughout the last few weeks. We applaud their efforts to stand up for these issues, and we’re glad St. John’s is standing behind them. The only way for us to move forward is to do so in unity.