The Charter Features By OLIVIA SILBERNAGEL
Now that the media buzz surrounding the Florida shooting has faded almost to silence, students are still fighting for change. An anonymous student who participated in the March walkout says they would like to see more protest, “Any opportunity to protest against violence or give respect [to] those who need it is one I will take…yes. I would like [another walkout].”
The school walkout at ACA was intended to help bring change to gun policy in America and remember those lost in Parkland, Florida. On March 14, 2018, roughly 35 students left their classes in protest of gun violence and the lives it has cost in American schools, specifically in Parkland.
Rachel Armstrong, a Junior, created her own project to gather student opinions about gun control even beyond ACA. “I had never seen such an incredible and universal response from students after the tragedy in Parkland, Florida,” says Armstrong, “I started asking around to see if students were planning on participating in walkouts around the Portland area…The more I got in touch with people the more ‘excited’ I guess you could say I became because a lot of the people I talked to were not only passionate and opinionated about this topic but very driven…Because I was getting multiple responses I created a poll with numerous questions, mostly about how they felt after the tragedy, as well as their age and where they live, etc….A little less than a week later I had 152 responses, which is where it stands now.”
Armstrong hopes to continue with her project. “Sadly I haven’t gotten as much done as I had hoped. I was planning on reaching out again to people to get the ‘before and after’ type of aspect – mostly focusing on whether or not any change has really happened within communities or if this was a short-lived movement,” she says.
Even with Oregon’s recent gun control law, which banned those convicted of stalking, domestic abuse, or those under a restraining from buying a gun in the state of Oregon, students who participated in the walkout say they want more change. According to the same anonymous student “[it is] a fantastic place to start. But in my opinion, laws need to be more solid than that.” They stress the need for nationwide action against gun violence by saying, “Multiple states have passed bills beginning the fight against gun violence, but what we need is an end. So I think the changes have been good, but simply not what the country needs.”
Piper Stephens, a sophomore, also feels that more could be done, “I feel like some of the responses that have come from schools have been really misguided…They don’t do anything to change the root of the problem, and just seem like a flimsy act to make people feel safer,” she says.
The students also expressed their desire for more action on the part of those who were originally involved in the walkout and similar protests. “If nothing changes and the violence continues, I do think that students should keep raising their voices and having walkouts for the change that is necessary,” says Stephens.
Stephens says she has problems with the proposed solutions, specifically arming teachers.
“I think that the idea of arming teachers is ridiculous, because of how unstable the idea is when you actually think about it. Who’s going to pay for the weapons? How are teachers going to be trained to use them correctly? How will training be paid for? How can we expect our already underpaid teachers to be in control enough in an active shooter situation to not only hide a classroom of students in a lockdown, but also defend them with a firearm? How will law enforcement be able to accurately tell who is the shooter and who is school faculty when they see someone holding a weapon? Why are we putting the responsibility of stopping shooters on teachers instead of making it harder for people to get the weapons that allow them to murder students in their schools?”
An anonymous source from Armstrong’s project hopes that the fight for gun control will continue. “We could always use more protest. And I don’t feel like officials are reacting as strongly as they should be,” they say.
The message from current high school students is one of disappointment and dissatisfaction with how the issue is being handled within both schools and the government. “If nothing changes and the violence continues, I do think that students should keep raising their voices and having walkouts for the change that is necessary,” says Stephens.
Anonymous student. Email interview. Apr. 28, 2018
Anonymous source. Survey response. March, 2018
Armstrong, Rachel. Email interview. Apr. 28, 2018
Stephens, Piper. Email interview. Apr. 30, 2018