West Liberty-Salem students will be among students across the country who plan to leave classrooms for a 17-minute National School Walkout at 10 a.m. March 14 to protest legislators’ lack of action to curb gun violence. Initiated by the Women’s Youth Empower Movement, the protest is to last 17 minutes in recognition of the 17 students killed by gunfire Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“As a community that was directly affected by this (gun violence) epidemic, we are looking to make as much of an impact as we can,” Madeline Emory told the Urbana Daily Citizen and River Current. She and fellow seniors Addy Wilson, Nick Williams and Allyson Smith are organizing the WL-S walkout.
“Students wishing to participate can sign out and meet at the liberty bell in front of West Liberty-Salem High School,” Emory stated in a message to media. “Teachers and faculty are encouraged to participate, but teachers must find another teacher to watch their class. Anybody from the community is also welcome to meet outside of the school to show their support.”
Once outside, participating students will find a table where they can write letters to state and federal legislators.
“This is an important movement across the nation,” Wilson told the Daily Citizen/River Current. “No child, teacher or parent should ever be forced to go through an event like this, and this is the time to change, to make sure these shootings come to an end,” she added, referring to Parkland’s tragedy, last year’s shooting at WL-S that injured two people, and other shootings across the country.
“Gun laws and gun violence in school is a very sensitive topic to many students and teachers, especially at my high school,” Smith told the Daily Citizen/River Current. “I do believe our planned participation in the walkout has been widely accepted by many WL-S students. With that being said, we also stressed that students and staff would not be looked down upon for not walking out.
“As a student, you have the right to peacefully protest and the right not to,” Smith added. “We just hope to bring awareness to reform the issue of gun violence in school and to honor the 17 students who passed away at the … Parkland shooting.”
Asked about the school and community response to the planned walkout, Williams said, “Several parents and local activists have contacted me thanking our steering committee on all the time we have sacrificed in organizing this event; however, many members in the local community believe we are only puppets to the Democratic Party or brainwashed children. Nevertheless we will not be deterred in our mission to make our voice heard.”
Emory said she hopes people of all political persuasions research the Women’s Youth Empower movement.
“Whether or not you support the walkout, I hope that we can find common ground in the notion that things cannot continue the way that they are,” she said. “It is time for a change … I encourage you to protest Congress’s failure to address this crisis on any level since Columbine in 1999. It is time to make schools a safe place in America again.”
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.