Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Vicky Dorvee
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Niwot High School students take part in national walk out

 

March 22, 2018

Photo by Vicky Dorvee Organizers of the Niwot High School walk out gather at the end of the event.

Niwot High students flowed out of the school building Wednesday morning just before 10 a.m. to join in the countrywide momentum of teens exercising their rights to free speech by asking for stronger gun control legislation. Student hopes were that by emptying classrooms and being heard, they will bring about speedy changes to prevent the growing wave of senseless tragedies in the U.S.

Student organizers Sophia Jones and Lauren McHugh stood with fellow march leaders on the berm at the front of the school. They began the rally with an emotional plea.

“The purpose of this event is to educate others on the silent rage we have experienced every time the news of another school shooting catches us off guard. We are not only angry that the government isn’t taking action, we are scared; scared to go to school, scared to receive an education,” Jones said.

The 17-minute protest was initiated on the national level by Empower, the youth division of the Women’s March organization. Each minute of the protest honored a student or staff member who was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one month ago. Students from that Parkland, FL high school have responded fervently to the horrific incident. Their well-publicized actions have become the tipping point for other young activists to use their voices and insist on new laws governing the sale of guns.

“We feel really strongly about this and see how it is affecting our generation,” NHS student Taylor Thulson said. “We also want to show our support for Parkland.”

Students Bryan Manzo and Aranley Dowling echoed those sentiments while carrying their handmade signs in the march.

“We want to put an end to the violence and feel safe.” Manzo said.

The motto #NeverAgain and #Enough, along with signs expressing the need to feel safe at school, and asking for national gun policy changes were carried by some in the crowd of approximately 600 students, about half the enrollment at NHS. The stream of students, watched over by some parents and school administrators, along with a few noticeable law enforcement officials, walked east along the front of the school and then west along Niwot Road. They regrouped at the school entry as the names of those who were killed in Florida were read aloud to the crowd.

Reframing concerns from a Second Amendment issue to a public safety issue, students across the country are asking politicians to mount changes to current laws; making it illegal to purchase assault weapons, requiring universal background checks, passing a gun violence restraining order (disarming people who have demonstrated any warning signs of violence) and increasing the age limit for firearm purchases.

Student Erin O’Neill, who joined in the NHS walkout said, “If we’re required to be here, we should feel safe while we’re here…but we don’t.”

Throughout this past month, attention is also being focused on National Rifle Association (NRA) backed politicians and boycotting companies who partner with the NRA, as well as Installing more standard security measures within schools.

McHugh and Jones spotted the national walkout plans through social media and gathered a group of friends together to help organize the event at NHS.

“There are some really passionate kids out there,” McHugh said. “After seeing that other schools were getting involved and the effect that, not just Niwot could have, but other schools could have together, as a nation, I think that was the most important thing.”

When asked about their expectations for the march, Jones said they wanted legislation to be the result. She mentioned since it was announced NHS was going to participate in the walkout, they received a letter from Congressman Jared Polis’s office.

Photo by Vicky Dorvee

Addressing the letter “Dear Students,” Polis stated he is proud of the students for saying “no more, not in our schools” and went on to write, “Your walk out is admirable, but I am saddened it is necessary.” The letter also reads, “To prevent another mass shooting, Congress must start by immediately taking action on universal background checks, a ban on bump-stocks and similar devices and an assault weapons ban.”

SVVSD Superintendent Don Haddad said only six to seven percent of the district’s high school students walked out on Wednesday, with Niwot High having the largest participation.

“Now is our time,” Jones said. “It is our time to stand up for what we believe and make a difference. We may be just high school kids or young adults, but we have never been more enraged by the lack of action that the US government has taken. These are our people.”

 

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