HARWICH – A snow day might have delayed the walkout at Monomoy Regional High School, but come Friday morning, a significant number of students braved the brisk and breezy weather as they stood in silence for 17 minutes, senior Grace Boyle reading aloud the names of those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.
There was one name for each minute the local students stood outside, some with signs bearing short but powerful statements, including “Our Lives Matter,” “Enough is Enough,” and “Am I Next?”
Colleen Connaughton's read “I want to read books, not eulogies.” The sophomore said her decision to take part in the walkout was simple.
“I don't want kids to be scared at school,” she said. “I don't want kids to feel they have to protect themselves or take self defense classes when they shouldn't have to. They should be able to come to school and have a safe learning environment and not have to worry about intruders coming in and taking away their freedom and their safety.”
“Today, we are taking a stand for change, using our voices to show the need for long overdue school safety reform,” said student organizer Lily Ryan in a speech given before the 17 minutes of silence and the reading of names. “We are doing so, not only in light of recent atrocities, but all school shootings - a phenomenon that should never occur in the first place. It is time to stand in solidarity for those who have lost their lives to school gun violence.”
The walkout was originally planned for March 14 in accordance with a nationwide event that stemmed from student outrage following the shooting in Parkland, Fla. Schools across the country held similar walkouts in protest of gun violence and concerns about laws and legislation, especially regarding the assault-style weapons used in the Parkland incident and others, including Sandy Hook in 2012.
Boyle helped organize the Monomoy walkout, which was supported by the school administration.
“I feel like school shootings have become something so normalized,” Boyle said. “We hear about it and it doesn't resonate because it's just something we see so often. But you go to other countries and they haven't had one in 20 years, and we've had 18 in a month. I felt that we needed to do something to show that we see that, and we hate that, and we need change.”
According to Everytown (everytownresearch.org), which tracks gun violence data, there have been 305 school shootings from primary grades to college since 2013. According to CNN (cnn.com) there have been 14 school shootings since the start of 2018, an average of one per week. Between the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting and March 7 there have been six, including one at a high school in Alabama.
“We have to show people that we're not OK with this, that this should never have happened in the first place,” said junior Ted Clifford, also an organizer of the walkout. “The fact that it keeps happening shows that there's something wrong.”
Clifford said it's time for local, state, and national leaders to take action.
“Our politicians, those who represent us, have to do something,” he said. “They can't just sit back and watch it happen, just because it's not their kids or it's not them. They have to do something. We have to look at what the issue is and how we're going to solve it. We have to put parties aside, put money aside, put organizations aside and say, 'These kids are dying. What are we going to do?' This is our way of saying that something has to change.”
As Boyle read aloud the names of each student and staff member who lost their lives in Parkland, Monomoy students stood silently, some displaying shocked expressions when the ages of deceased students were spoken. Seven of the MSD students killed in the attack were 14.
“The message is clear: we need change now,” said Ryan. “Today we call out those responsible for what happened, and those who will be responsible for allowing it to happen again. These are students and teachers that are being killed. These are people with families and futures that have been robbed. It is time this stops. Enough is enough. It's time we all say Never Again.”
Monomoy Principal Bill Burkhead said he was proud of the way his students conducted themselves.
“I'm very proud of how they handled themselves,” he said. “They all have a voice and an opinion and should be heard. I'm proud of all our kids, and I love them all.”