14 March 2018
Atholton students walked out of school and gathered on the football field Wednesday, March 14, in honor of the 17 shooting victims gunned down in Parkland, Florida last month. Amid the imminent March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. this Saturday, the walkout served as a conduit to the larger and more orchestrated protests tomorrow.
Student activists Veronica and Victoria Adler, Josh Kim and Timmy Wassell spoke in front of the crowd, their speeches followed by 17 minutes of silence for each of the victims of the Parkland shooting. “It’s time for a substantive conversation where we stand not as Democrats or Republicans but as students, as Americans who have endured enough sorrow for a generation, and who are not willing to endure the death of even one more child,” Kim said. Student groups worked with administrators to move Raider Time to after third period so that students walking out would not have to miss class.range ribbons were handed out at the walkout, because orange is the color of gun violence prevention.
As students across the country walked out last Wednesday, the Howard County walkouts at the county’s high schools were heralded as a breakthrough for student activism in Howard County schools, as well as an opportunity for administrators to balance student free speech rights with safety precautions. In an email to staff and students on Monday, Superintendent Martirano stated: “while we do not plan to prohibit student participation in activities that are conducted in a safe and responsible manner, we do expect all students remain on campus and follow system policies.” The walkout was revolutionary in terms of the extent of student activism impacting the thoughts and actions of students and the general public, as well as a critical window of time to allow students to draw attention to the recent events in Parkland, Florida and and past events in Columbine, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech.
As the 17 moments of silence ensued, some in the crowd held back tears, while others embraced and comforted each other. “I think that we all need to realize that this is what our world is like and we need to all do our best to play a part in making it a better and safer place,” said Freshman Dani Tran.
With an outpouring of support, students on both sides of the political spectrum appear to have come together in solidarity. However, contention has been raised over how action would be taken on gun violence, with schoolwide clubs Young Americans for Freedom and Young Democrats of America’s sharp disagreements being exposed at a debate a few weeks ago.
Nonetheless, the walkout reflected the community’s unified support for gun violence prevention. In the words of Josh Kim, “we need to come together as a community, make sure our politicians are accountable, make sure the youth voices are heard, and that way we can move forward and make decisions regarding our policies. That way we can move forward.”