Don’t let the walkout lose its meaning

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On Wednesday, Mar. 14, the 17 minute ENOUGH National School Walkout, organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER will be taking place at many schools throughout the nation.

ENOUGH has expressed that this walkout may take many different forms such as students congregating in hallways to hold hands, singing songs, standing together in silence, or speaking the names of people killed by gun violence.

New Trier has decided to participate in the 17-minute walkout. Various clubs and student groups have taken the initiative in organizing a student-wide ceremony to remember the 17 victims who lost their lives on Feb. 14.

The school has done their part in organizing the walkout; however, as we saw with seminar day, there are limitations as to how politically involved New Trier can get. The school administration, along with teachers, cannot be included in a political event, since government employees cannot participate in political rallies during business hours.

Student Alliance has labeled the goal of the walkout as a way to bring students together, drawing in legislators and allowing them to express their voice, regardless of whether their political view supports or opposes increasing gun control.

The second part of this mission troubles me, for the official, public commission on the ENOUGH National School Walkout website states, “We raise our voices for action against all these forms of gun violence.”

Because the walkout is not obligatory and student-led, I believe that New Trier should be able to parallel the goal of the walkout with that of the intended purpose, despite the political stance it takes.

Many students agree with this perspective: “Now that the school has gotten involved, the true meaning of the walkout, going from the message from the creators of it, is lost. Because the school cannot get behind a political protest or stance, they are making it as open-ended as possible. Not only is this not what the national walkout is for, but it leaves room for students to protest for guns,” stated junior Kam Gottlieb.

Senior Eden Hirschfield partnered with New Trier’s Amnesty International Club to raise money for EveryTown For Gun Safety, a movement of Americans fighting for common-sense reforms to reduce gun violence. Hirschfield designed orange T-shirts reading “Protect kids not guns,” that will sell the two days leading up to the walkout.

Hirschfield is using this walkout as an opportunity to advocate for “policy and change” instead of “thoughts and prayers.” This bold statement encompasses the meaning of Mar. 14, showing real, unrelenting courage of students exercising their right to freedom of speech.

On Feb. 27, Student Alliance organized a forum, advertising it as an opportunity for students to learn more about the event and provide input. Many students attended the forum; however, the pledged goal was not carried out.

Although the presentation was well articulated; it lacked the true meaning of a forum, for students in attendance were unable to express their feelings or ask questions.

“I don’t think it should have been called a ‘forum.’ We were pretty much limited to putting these comment and concerns in a box,” Gottlieb stated. “Don’t get me wrong it was very informative, and our president was very clear in their message, but things related to the events on Mar.14 are losing their meanings because of the school.  I just believe they are responding too much.”

Although I believe that the parameters set by the school are too restrictive, I am extremely impressed by the political debate that this movement has brought to this school.

Regardless of the controversy, the simple fact that students are engaging in an intellectually challenging debate is incredible.

As a former debate student, Iʼve had experience researching current events of which I do not feel personally connected, and even still, I inevitably become passionate in my opinion.

Because New Trier students feel an emotional connection with this event, as Parkland High School has similar traits to those of New Trier, students have become truly passionate about their beliefs on gun control, which seemed only a month ago, an irrelevant matter to this area.

Mar. 14 will be a monumental day for every student in the nation. Despite the relevancy that issues facing gun violence have become, calls for change are continuously ignored by policymakers and legislators. 

Whether you believe the school is not being supportive enough of encouraging students to voice opinions, or that the school is being too supportive of a political belief, 17 lives were lost on Feb. 14 and that matter cannot be debated.

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