NEWS
Local high school students participate in protest

Graphic by Ashley LaFayette.

BY SAMANTHA CARLSON

Exactly one month after the February shooting that resulted in the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., students across the country participated in protests against the lack of stronger gun regulation.

 

Schools in Will County are among the many others nationwide that participated in “walkouts” and “walkups,” creating a movement to inspire lawmakers to act on increasing laws on firearms to prevent future mass shootings.

 

Participants walked out of class March 14 at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims from the Florida shooting. Students were encouraged to wear orange clothes and make signs demanding protection and change, while claiming this was not just a moment but a movement.

 

Districts across the county responded to these actions in various ways. Joliet Township High School urged students to not participate in the walkouts, and instead created their own campaign called “#OurJT17.” This campaign consisted of different themes for 17 days that honored each of the victims of the Parkland shooting.

 

Joliet students were encouraged to “walk up” instead of “walkout” by changing everyday interactions between strangers to make them feel more welcomed. Students kicked off the event March 14 at 10 a.m. with a 17-minute video honoring the victims. The daily events will run through April 12, and students are encouraged to share them with people at other schools.

 

Over 1,000 students who attend Downers Grove North and South schools will be serving detention for participating in the national walkouts. The superintendent of the Downers Grove district, Hank Thiele, explained to parents of students that there were consequences that came with protesting before the event took place.

 

“We believe for students to receive the full civics lesson of what it means to participate in a protest also requires accepting the consequences for their actions,” said Thiele in a message to students and their parents.

After the detentions were given, Thiele said he was proud of the students for standing up for what they believe.

 

Romeoville High School students were scheduled to participate in the event where they would stand in a formation that would spell out “RHS United” on their football field, but an Instagram threat postponed their plans.

 

A Romeoville student posted a picture on his Instagram account holding a gun, which caused for cancellation of the walkout due to safety precautions. After an investigation was conducted by Romeoville PD, it was determined the picture contained an airsoft gun and there was no threat to the community. Plans to reschedule the walkout are scheduled to take place so students can still participate.

 

A pro-gun rally also took place outside Romeoville High School in counterargument against the walkouts. Students who are in support of guns would be allowed to attend the rally if they had a permission note from parents to leave the campus. Police continued to monitor the area to ensure the safety of all those who were involved on both sides.

 

Lewis students responded to the increased gun violence and walkouts by sharing their concerns with how situations like this can be prevented in the future.

 

“All of these at-risk people show warning signs prior to any violence,” said junior psychology student Alex Wasko. “There needs to be more emphasis on mental health in education.”

 

Students at Lewis are planning a protest against gun violence, which is scheduled to happen later in April. More information about the event will be available in the coming weeks for those who wish to participate.

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