Students show their resolve by walking out
They sure aren’t settling for thoughts and prayers.
High schoolers who walked out of class around the country last Wednesday to protest gun violence were demanding action.
Thousands of young people — because while it is tempting to see them as children, these were not the actions of children — organized and inspired each other to make a powerful statement to the older generations: You have failed us. You have not protected us.
Many observers have noted in the month since a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school that this time things seem different.
Unlike the aftermath of so many other school shootings, this time the schoolchildren are leading the charge for change, inspired by the student leaders of a movement at that Florida school.
They stood together — for 17 minutes, representing the 17 deaths — demanding action. Yet the young protesters are not all on the same page about what action they want to see. Some want stricter gun laws, some want armed teachers, and some want other reforms. But they are unified in the core belief that they must stand up together now because their parents’ and grandparents’ generations have let them down.
As one sign put it, “Sorry for the inconvenience, we’re trying to change the world.”
“Children are dying and being shot and having to practice what to do when a person comes in with a gun to their school,” said Christina Campbell, 12, a student at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts school. “We’re sick and tired of it. We’re not doing this anymore. We’re going to fight back.”
CAPA students marched to Market Square. At other schools, the students did not walk out but held events in school. At Oakland Catholic, students gave presentations on gun violence and the entire school gathered for a 17-minute prayer service.
Students and faculty sat in 17 chairs representing each victim of the Florida shooting, holding a candle. One by one they blew out the candles and left the chair empty. The memory of that image is going to remain with those students for a lifetime.
Adults should be able to assure children that school is a safe place to be. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, an entire generation of children has always gone to school without that assurance of safety. They are fed up with living with fear.
Many teachers were standing with their students Wednesday, some even moved to tears to see their pupils coming into their own.
The protesters want adults to know that this is not a teenage whim. They might be young, but this is not a frivolous notion or a passing phase. They will be voters soon. And they will remember how adults responded to their demands.
The nation’s leaders must not dismiss Wednesday’s walkout as a stunt or naive youthful folly. This is a call to conscience.
Those on the other side of the generations should honor it with action.