ON MARCH 14th, STUDENTS ACROSS THE NATION GATHERED TO PROTEST GUN LAWS AND TO STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE VICTIMS OF MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL.
MOUNTAIN VIEW HIGH SCHOOL Palo Alto, California
by Sheli Yaskin
Roughly 650 MVHS students, as well as teachers and community members, joined over 3,000 other schools nationwide to walk out of class for the March 14 #Enough Mountain View High School and Community Walkout.
According to the student organizers of the walkout, the goal of the walkout was threefold: to showcase solidarity with victims of the Parkland school shooting, advocate for stricter gun laws at the federal level, and encourage students to vote.
Two city council members and three students gave speeches, and the League of Women Voters, which “encourages informed and active participation in government”, had a booth where students could pre-register to vote.
Student Alex Myers spoke out against what she believes are the failure of our gun laws in America, telling the audience that “on an average day, 96 Americans, 19 of which are under 20, are killed by guns.” She said that while mental health is an issue across the nation, short-term relief can be provided by removing easy access to firearms until a long-term mental health solution is found.
Mayor Ken Rosenberg reiterated the importance of student activism and voting. He told students the most effective way to generate change is through talking and writing local and federal lawmakers, and most importantly, voting.
Student Zachary Moore spoke about how youth political activism could “create a revolution, a tidal wave.” He said that students must vote to push the NRA out of the government because “no important gun legislation will be passed if we do not vote.”
“Only 20% of 18-year-olds vote in midterm elections,” Moore said. “It is our time. We have never had more power or more influence than right now.”
Although student Serena Myjer has been shooting guns as a hobby throughout her life in a “controlled and safe environment,” she said she believes that some guns are too dangerous for public sale and that the government must establish what types of guns can be bought and sold.
“A line must be drawn between the guns that are designed to kill a large amount of people in a small amount of time and hobby [guns],” Myjer said.
Student suspended after taking “Make America Great Again” hats from peers at walkout
by Neda Shahiar
A student was suspended yesterday after he took “Make America Great Again” hats from a group of students wearing them and threw them into a patch of mud.
The incident occurred in the quad at yesterday’s #Enough Mountain View High School and Community Walkout, where a group of five students gathered peacefully on the outside of the event while sporting the bright red hats commonly associated with President Donald Trump.
Among them was junior Luke Olslund, who described the group’s presence as a “protest of the protest.” He said that by wearing the hats, which they planned to do about a week in advance, they intended to represent opposition toward stricter gun regulations.
Sophomore Noah Morris and junior Tevanui Freitas, also among the group of hat-wearers, said they attended the walkout to listen to speeches and hear opposing perspectives on gun control, although they believe mental health issues are at the root of gun violence and advocate for different preventative measures.
“What happened in Florida was terrible,” Morris said. “I wanted to hear people’s opinions about how to change it and what we should do so it doesn’t happen again.”
Olslund, however, said that because the group stood apart from the event, it was difficult to hear the speakers and the speeches did not influence the group.
After the speeches ended, Morris and Freitas said they moved with their group toward a more central area in the quad to engage in discussion about the event.
Senior Emily Vastano said she saw the students in red hats talking on the grass when senior Andrew Tey approached them, and she watched, “shocked,” as Tey removed one of the hats and placed it in the mud. A small crowd cheered him on, eyewitnesses said, as he proceeded to press the hat into the ground with his feet.
As Olslund watched, he worried Tey might approach him next and began putting his hat into his backpack. Tey then returned and, according to Olslund, said, “Why don’t you take that hat out of the backpack.” At that point, Olslund said Freitas approached Tey, and eyewitnesses said a teacher attempted but failed to stop Tey as he removed Freitas’ hat and stomped on it in the mud as he had with the previous one.
Freitas then brought Principal David Grissom to where the incident had occurred, he said. After it was over and most students had left the quad to attend fourth period, senior Ella Wiborg said she watched Grissom pick up the muddy hats.
As punishment, Tey said he received two days of suspension on grounds that he “caused or attempted to cause damage to private property” and “disrupted school activities,” and was told he must compensate the students for the cost of the hats.
Assistant Principal Teri Faught, who was present at the walkout but did not witness the incident, supports the consequences administered to Tey.
“Hostility toward anybody is zero tolerance here,” Faught said. “I trust my team in how they handled it because to me that represented exactly what we stand for.”
Tey was aware of what the consequences would be and chose to act because he is against what the red hats represent, he said in a statement sent to Oracle, stating his actions were “conscious and non-impulsive.”
“Especially in the context of a rally against the Republican-abetted slaughter of schoolchildren with exceptionally deadly weapons, the wearers were clearly not intending to engage in rational good-faith debate,” Tey said in the statement. “Wearing the red hat to such an event was nothing short of malicious.”
Freitas said he and the four other hat-wearers were there to grieve the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting, and to show the crowd that other perspectives on the gun control debate exist; Olslund agreed that the counter-protest became a way to represent his opinion as he learned more about the debate, but said wearing the hats was originally intended to be a “joke.”
Tey chose to target the hats because he “meant no bodily harm to the students.” Those around Freitas were “shocked” when Tey took the hats, he and other eyewitnesses said.
“I thought Mountain View was a safe place,” Freitas said. “That’s why we wore the hats.”
Teacher David Campbell did not witness the event but saw the students in the hats standing and talking amongst themselves before Tey had approached them. He said he thought the counter-protest was “a little antagonistic,” but supports the right of the students to express themselves.
“Part of what makes this country so great is that we’re allowed to express how we feel and what we think,” Campbell said. “If you value the right of free speech you need to value the right of someone else to have free speech, whether or not you disagree with them.”
Others have also argued that Tey’s actions constituted limiting freedom of speech, a stance that Tey is aware of. He holds that he violated only school rules and not the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.
“An individual’s freedom of speech is only protected from government limitation. The First Amendment does not prevent me from responding to unacceptable forms of speech,” Tey said in the statement. “Upon weighing what I felt was a moral imperative against potential disciplinary consequences, I found myself compelled to take a stand rather than stand idly by.”
Freitas said he has received support regarding the incident from Grissom, Superintendent Jeff Harding, and the teacher who attempted to restrain Tey; he also filed a police report on the event.
Eyewitnesses Wiborg and Vastano, along with Faught, said they felt saddened by the incident, which they thought was harmful to the positive school culture that was otherwise fostered at the walkout. Vastano noted that a walkout speaker specifically told the crowd before the incident that it’s important to acknowledge other viewpoints on gun control and not dismiss the holders of such viewpoints as “bad people.”
Vastano felt “disappointed” because she thought the incident went “directly against” those sentiments.
Andrew Tey is a member of the Oracle staff but was not involved whatsoever in the reporting of this story other than by submitting a written statement. His views and comments quoted in this article do not reflect those of Oracle’s.
Sheli Yaskin also contributed to this article.
PUYALLUP HIGH SCHOOL, Puyallup, Washington
by Haley Keizur
More than 200 PHS students chose to participate in the National Walkout today, March 14. Students marched to support stricter gun control and remember the 17 victims from the school shooting in Parkland, FL, while others chose to counter protest the walkout.
Students marched from PHS to Pioneer Park, where the names of each Parkland victim was read, along with a short description of the student or teacher, followed by a moment of silence. Four choir students sang “Sing Me to Heaven” to honor the 17 lives lost in Parkland and the many others lost to school shootings. Sophomore Sara Sprague proceeded to give a speech, the same speech she will share in Florida this June as part of her speech and debate competition.
“My message to Parkland is unconditional love and respect,” Sprague said to the 200 students and community members gathered to listen.
Sprague believes Congress should put into place stricter background checks and some automatic weapons should be outlawed completely
“A national walkout is all of us coming together despite our differences, despite our political agendas and uniting to have one common goal and message. That is safety. That is remembrance of Florida. That is making sure something like that never happens again. The reason it is so big and it is national is because when Washington [D.C.] sees that everyone in the country is doing this, they are going to see it is a common goal and this is what democracy is,” Sprague said after the event.
Other students chose to attend the walkout to protest stricter gun legislation.
“I chose to be here because I think a lot of people have the wrong idea about gun violence. They think if you take them away, violence will disappear. In Detroit, they have strict gun laws, yet they still have high crime rates. Criminals will still find ways, through bombings or illegal weapons,” one senior counter protester said.
He believes it is important for students to stand up for their rights and what they believe in. As for change, he does not see a need.
“Honestly, at the moment, I do not really see any need for change. However, [maybe invoking] stricter gun laws or stricter background checks but not necessarily stricter gun laws. Take into account the stability of people, rather than just looking at their criminal record and if they do not have one, just checking them off,” he said.
PHS students joined hundreds of students across the district and thousands across the nation to remember the Parkland shooting victims and let their voices be heard. After the student speaker, students signed a poster to send to friends and family of the victims in Florida.
MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL Parkland, Florida
After the tragedy on Feb. 14, some Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and teachers needed a meaningful way to remember this day and those they lost. A peaceful and artistic way they could remember their friends and teachers was to get a tattoo.
Students created their own tattoo designs and even designed some for their friends in remembrance of the day to keep their fallen classmates close. Junior Taylor Ferrante-Markham’s tattoo displays the word “Love” in cursive with the letter “L” in the form of a red ribbon. There is also a “17” below the world “Love” to remember the 17 victims.
“I knew many people that passed,” Ferrante-Markham said. “The tattoo is meant to keep love for them even though they aren’t with us.”
Senior Rebecca Bogart was a student that was directly impacted by the shooting. She along with her classmates were in freshman building in room 1214. After the shooting, she had a tattoo put on the right side of her upper back to remember the individuals lost on that dreadful day. The tattoo is two angel wings with a “17” between them and a halo above the number. The words “Fly High” are displayed above the wings and the date appears “2-14-18” below all of it.
“The two angel wings represent Nick and Helena, the two students who were in my class when they got shot, [and] a 17 for the 17 who passed that day,” Bogart said. “‘Fly High’ because we are Eagles, and the ones we lost will fly high in heaven; I’m always an Eagle.”
These tattoos filled with meaning will continue to serve as a reminder to the survivors to live a courageous and bold life in honor of the 17 victims. To these students, this is not only an act of great magnitude, but also a step of healing for those who survived and have to live with this tragedy.
MALVERN PREPARATORY SCHOOL Malvern, Pennsylvania
MEMORIAL WALK HELD FOR VICTIMS OF FLORIDA SHOOTING
Featured Image: Caitlin Smith, Students on Capitol Hill