Whether we “allow” students to walk out or not, let’s face the fact that they have a reason to protest. Every student who walks into a school has a reason to fear gun violence within those walls. We can only say “it’s never happened here” right up until it does. We didn’t expect that horrific incident at the Columbia Mall, now did we?
It happens. It has happened. It is happening. It will happen, even here, if we don’t make a substantive change in how we deal with guns in our culture. Students know this. They have no motivation to say, “well, on the other hand” or “let’s not go overboard” or any of those mealy-mouthed, whataboutism claims.
Children lie dead in school classrooms. Classmates bleed out, ripped apart by by bullets from assault weapons. Students throughout the nation train and rehearse active shooter drills. This is not education. This is the antithesis of the learning and growth that School is supposed to represent.
Measures that turn our schools into prisons may be reassuring to some parents but students know better. Most of those same measures have already been proven ineffective in previous school shootings. Even if we turned every school into a SuperMax facility, our students could very likely meet their end at the movie theater. Or a nightclub. Or a shopping center.
It’s not the location. It’s the guns.
I believe in the right of students to protest. I believe that protest can be an effective motivator of change. I’ve seen some adults carping that kids don’t understand larger issues and merely want a reason to cut class. That just galls me. Let’s not sell our kids short. And besides, in every group are those who will understand and those who won’t. Even in groups of adults. That doesn’t mean we negate the rights of all because some won’t “get it.”
Whether or not one lives or dies or loses friends and teachers is relevant to every student. It is not an issue that belongs a to particular political party. It belongs to every child who goes to school and lives in fear. We have allowed this world to come into existence.
Our students are saying “enough”.