Schools take aim at gun violence

The North Shore will have multiple schools participating in the National School Walkout against gun violence on Wednesday, weather permitting.

The Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., took the lives of 17 people and motivated students, educators and administrators across the country to say they have had enough. A National Walkout in schools across America has been organized for March 14 to call for a ban on assault weapons, stronger background checks before gun sales, and laws that would disarm people who have displayed signs of violence.

Administrators, students and educators across the North Shore are collectively working together to ensure the safety of anyone who chooses to participate. The walkout is a movement that has swept across the country in an effort to stop gun violence in schools.

"School is supposed to be a safe place," said Isabella Amato, a junior at Revere High School. "I mean our schools are being shot up and students are dying."

Amato is one of the walkout organizers at Revere High, along with her friend and classmate Seba Ismail. The young leaders set up Instagram accounts and posted polls on Twitter for their classmates to engage in, with the majority of them in support of the movement.

"The administration, superintendent and principal called a meeting with student leaders and students who have an engaging hold on the student body, asking if the walkout was going to happen and trying to engage and understand our purpose in doing it," said Ismail. "The school seems to be very supportive of the walkout."

One of the school's teachers had black with orange-lettered T-shirts made for all the students participating in the walkout to wear as an anti-gun violence emblem. The participating students will hold gun control speeches along with students reading aloud their own poetry. The walkouts across the country will begin at 10  a.m. and will last 17 minutes, one minute for each Parkland victim.

"We have advisory, which is similar to homeroom, and some students didn't think the walkout had any purpose and didn't believe in gun control, so it became a really interesting conversation," said Ismail. "Coming from different backgrounds and perspectives it was enlightening to see where they were coming from and how willing they were to hear our perspective."

If a snow day occurs on Wednesday, the Revere students and faculty will make their way to City Hall to sit and protest while holding a moment of silence for the lives lost in Florida.

Michael Satterwhite, Lynn's newest school committee member, stands in support of the nation's movement against gun violence. Whether or not the snow forces a second snow day on Wednesday, he hopes Lynn students will still try to participate in some way.

"I think it's important to show that you care about your fellow students and educators, even if they're 2,000 miles away," said Satterwhite.

According to Satterwhite, the walkout in Lynn was approved with terms it would be treated similar to a fire drill to ensure the safety of all students. Students who feel uneasy about it and want to walk to a place that feels safe have the option of going to their lunch room or auditorium.

"We voted on this at the last committee meeting and I brought it to the forefront because I finished high school in Hollywood, Florida, a couple towns over from Parkland, and I thought it would be great for our kids to stand in support with the students and educators down there," said Satterwhite.

Lynn Superintendent Catherine Latham released a statement regarding the city's stance on the walkout. She acknowledges that all Lynn middle and high schools are welcome to join the country in using their freedom of speech to protest school violence and honor the students who lost their lives on that fateful day last month.

Latham's statement outlines that middle schools will pause instruction at 10 a.m. so each principal can address the student body and invite everyone to participate in a moment of silence and reflection. For the high schools, students will gather in their homerooms at 10 a.m. to leave the building together and remain outside for 17 minutes.

The superintendent emphasized that student participation is voluntary and those who wish to stay inside may do so. She also reminds students of the importance of being expected to behave with the Lynn Public Schools' code of conduct. Members of the Lynn Police Department will be present at the high schools to ensure safety.  

Kirsten Crowe, a senior at Peabody High School, has led the organization behind the walkout at her school. Peabody High students will gather at the designated time for an introduction that thanks all participants for coming out and then four speeches will follow. The speeches will include a left-leaning speaker, a right-leaning speaker, a speech that discusses physical and mental health, and then a poem by fellow student Chinma Okananwa.

"The Monday after February break, the school held a meeting with our student council, the mayor, our principal, and the superintendent and they were all super supportive," said Crowe. "They continue to say it's our event and they want to make sure we have what we need for those wanting to participate, so it's really nice knowing they stand behind us."

All participants will hold a moment of silence and then read aloud the names of the 17 Parkland shooting victims.

Jane Tremblay, the Lynnfield superintendent, also released a statement regarding the National School Walkout. She acknowledges that there are students and faculty throughout the schools who will participate in the event, but says the district cannot take a political stance on current events in the country.

Tremblay promises to work with students and educators to ensure an organized and peaceful event for those choosing to participate. The superintendent assured that students who participate in the walkout will be exercising their right to freedom of expression.

"I think this movement is bigger than us and students can see how they are impacted because this can happen in any school, anywhere, at any time," said Amato, a Revere High 11th-grader. "We are students and we are afraid, so we're more than willing to stand in solidarity with the Parkland victims because this is a problem that affects everyone."

More Stories In News