As students and schools throughout the county rally around the activism from survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, students in the William S. Hart Union High School District are organizing demonstrations of their own to demand safe school campuses.
Wednesday’s nationwide school walkout is the first of many this year organized by high school students who are protesting current gun laws following the shooting in Parkland, Florida last week.
In the Hart district, walkouts have been organized at Golden Valley, Valencia, Canyon and West Ranch High Schools, according to the walkout organizer and Golden Valley High School junior Dean Douglas. Students at Hart High School and Saugus High School may also be participating in demonstrations, as well.
“I was really inspired to lead this walkout after the recent Florida school shooting. It wasn’t necessarily the shooting that inspired me, but rather the reaction I had towards the event,” Douglas said. “When I came home that Wednesday and heard about the event, I am saddened to say that I brushed it off my shoulder and took it as ‘another school shooting.’”
However, after hearing stories from teenagers at Stoneman Douglas High School, Douglas realized that people should not see school shootings as something that is commonplace.
“As a current high school student and the brother of a freshman, I don’t want to consistently worry about the easiest way to escape a possible gunman scenario or worry that if there is a gunman on campus that I cannot protect my younger brother as I am supposed to,” Douglas said. “And for these reasons, I have decided to get the entire Hart district involved in the walkout.”
As part of the walkout, students will begin their demonstrations at 12:15 p.m. during the schools’ lunchtime hour. Each school has the freedom to protest “how they see fit,” according to Douglas.
At Golden Valley, students will be holding their protest at the middle of their school campus and will chant phrases like, “We Could Be Next” while holding signs with the names of the victims from school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, Columbine High School and Stoneman Douglas High School.
For schools and students that do decide to demonstrate, the Hart district is encouraging students and staff to keep the protest within the confines of the school campus.
“The Hart district cannot endorse political positions, but we can support our students’ right to free speech and we can help them think through their process for exercising that right,” said Dave Caldwell, public relations officer for the Hart district in a statement. “Principals have been encouraged to reach out to student leadership on their campus to find out what students intend and to structure those activities to avoid disrupting school operations. We also want to emphasize with students that it would be best to keep any protest activity on campus.”
If the student demonstration and walkout occurs during class time, students who choose to the leave the classroom will receive an unexcused absence for that class, according to Caldwell.
Douglas and other students hope the demonstrations inspire other Americans and political leaders to take action against gun violence.
“I hope it inspires students to take action against wrong doings and to participate more in fighting for their rights,” Douglas said. “I also hope that these protests help our local government officials realize that we will not stand idly by as our peers are killed for trying to gain an education.”
Additional student walkouts and demonstrations are scheduled to occur nationwide throughout the remainder of the school year.
A month later on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, students throughout the country are expected to leave school as part of the National School Walkout for Anti-Gun Violence.
And on March 24, students and families from Stoneman Douglas High School and from schools throughout the country will take to the streets of Washington, D.C. for the first March for Our Lives.