Photo courtesy of Derek Swanson.
Students and staff gather outside the campus library for the national school walkout.
Lewis students took part in a school walkout on Friday, April 20 to commemorate school shooting victims over the years. The date chosen was significant as it was the anniversary of the Columbine shooting that took place 19 years earlier.
Since Columbine, there have been over 270 school shootings in the U.S. with Parkland being the most publicized recent shooting. The walkouts that began in high schools in March have since spread to college campuses across the country. Lewis joined the movement as part of the second wave of school walkouts, with the first having occurred in early March.
At the walkout, students and staff gathered in front of the library at 10:10 a.m. It began with a prayer, and a minute and 13 second-long moment of silence was also held in remembrance of those who lost their lives at Columbine. Both students and university staff spoke about the unnecessary loss of life. A gospel choir also performed “Peace I Leave with You,” as well as the Coen Brothers’ song, “Columbine, Friend of Mine."
A voter registration table was set up, giving students the chance to enact change by voting on gun legislation. Those who spoke made it clear that the walkout was not a political issue.
Dr. Steven Nawara, professor in the political science department, shared his thoughts on the walkout. “This is not a partisan or ideological issue,” said Nawara. “It is a humanity issue.” Nawara also applauded those in attendance. “Not everyone will be happy that you walked out of a classroom today,” said Nawara.
Students and staff of the education department also spoke about how school violence has affected them in their careers. Student Christy Carlson, a math and secondary education major, shared that she believes that arming teachers with guns would be counterproductive, and not fix the core issue of violence in schools.
“Arming teachers is an outlandish idea,” said Carlson. “Our focus should be on keeping guns out of school in the first place.” Education department professor Dr. Jennifer Buss also spoke to the issue. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t pray [my children] are safe.”
Following the speeches, a bell rang 15 times for the 15 students who died in the Parkland shooting. During this, those who participated in the walkout shouted, “Not one more” in response to the school violence spreading across the country.
According to Broadly, a division of Vice News, there have already been 17 school shootings in the U.S. since Parkland. It is important to note that not all of these have been fatal or directed at students, but some have been. On April 20, a student of Forest High School in Ocala, Florida was shot in the ankle at school.
“It is important that students show they are not afraid to speak up for those who can’t,” said freshman Jaylen Bush. “What we do here will help people around the country if we are loud enough.”
The walkout was orchestrated by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students using their gun control group Never Again MSD. Their main goal as an organization is to bring awareness to the widespread gun violence across the U.S., as well as influence gun policy in upcoming elections.
“Protest has to make people feel a little uncomfortable,” said Nawara. “My challenge for everyone here is to be the vocal majority.”