Oviedo Journalism

Walkouts only one form of political involvement for students

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This story was originally published in the third edition of The Lion’s Tale (March 27, 2018).

Rather than allowing the Majory Stoneman Douglas  High School (MSDHS) tragedy to go unnoticed, one week after the shooting, on Feb. 21, students all across America left their classrooms at 12 p.m. to congregate–peacefully–for 17 minutes in remembrance of the 17 lives lost. At Oviedo High School, students poured out of their sixth period classes to participate under the watchful eye of administration and police.

Despite the peaceful plans, the scene soon turned into a yelling match, according to junior Cassidy Gillis, when protesters on both sides of the gun debate started fighting.

“We were all clashing and screaming,” Gillis said. “It was supposed to be a peaceful, quiet protest to honor the lives that were lost, but it turned into a yelling match.”

Stunned by the scene, Gillis reflected on the matter and realized where the fault laid: a lack of restraint.

“I think we need to control ourselves better, because we can’t control what [the other side is] going to do, but we can keep our side of it calm,” Gillis said.

On the one-month anniversary of the shooting, Mar. 14, Gillis and other students–along with students across America at their own schools–departed from lunch to gather for a second walkout, this time with a new focus.

“A friend and I realized that we should be more organized and that it would be better to have the two opposing sides separated because that was an issue at the last walkout, where we kept bombarding each other,” Gillis said. “We wanted to get the people who were mainly in charge together and unify what we were going to do to make sure it was peaceful no matter what.”

Gillis said the focus of this second walkout was to create a better understanding of what the walkout symbolizes.

“We want everyone to understand that we’re here for peace, not anger and violence, because what happened on Feb. 21 made us all look like a laughing stock–like we don’t know what we’re doing,” Gillis said. “This event was to fix the messed up reputation of protesting and we should fix it because all we did was dishonor the lives lost.”

With the second walk out, Gillis stated that the reputation of protesting was reversed back, as it was peaceful–students huddled closely together, talking sparingly or remaining silent, while others held up signs, once again under the watchful eye of administration and police.

“Even though there were less people participating, it was more unified,” Gillis said.

While these walkouts are important to Gillis and those involved, she said that more must be done for the change students are seeking.

“There’re sudents doing way more than we’re doing with just sitting out by the clocktower; there are kids who are marching up to the capitol in Tallahassee,” Gillis said. “We need to contribute because our generation is all the same. We all need to fight for our safety. I hope that we will actually make a change–that people will actually listen to us and that enough people in our school take it seriously, because our lives are in jeopardy.”

Other involvement 

The fear that lives are in jeopardy has led students to take a stand and start politically active agendas.

Senior Melissa Krieger decided to compose a letter to Senator Marco Rubio after she heard the news of the MSDHS shooting.

“My purpose was to let Senator Rubio know that his position on gun control is directly contributing to the death of innocent people,” Krieger said. “People should come before campaign contributions from the NRA, which is why I see Rubio’s refusal to address gun violence as especially discouraging.”

In her letter, Krieger details her stance on gun control and how she believes revisions should be made to provide protection, as well as her dismay in regards to Rubio’s policy on gun control.

Although Krieger said she has complete faith that she will recieve a reply from the senator, she doesn’t expect to receive the response she seeks, but still believes in the importance of her letter.

“I think that his response will be lackluster and reinforce his position that gun ownership is an absolute right,” Krieger said. “I think it is important, because I am unable to make a change with a vote, to openly expressing my disapproval to the people who are supposed to represent me; it’s a way I can make a difference.”

AP Government and Politics teacher John Howell said it is nice to see students like Krieger getting politically active, despite the unfortunate circumstances behind it.

“A lot of students have causes, whether it’s through their church or a local organization,” Howell said. “That’s being politically active, because you’re out there trying to help benefit society–anytime you’re trying to help make society better, you’re being politically active.”

Howell also hopes students will become prepared to vote as they enter adulthood.

“I’m trying to get the Seminole County Registry out here at Oviedo as they have in the past,” Howell said. “Last time, they came out we were able to get anyone who wanted to get registered to vote, registered, which was about 300 students; we’re hoping that will happen this time.”

Krieger believes this rise in involvement is something that should happen regardless of current political events–that students should always be active in their world.

“Young people especially should get involved in politics because we are all directly impacted by government,” Krieger said. “It is easy to complain and mock our current political atmosphere, but change comes from us.”

Gillis shares similar principle as Krieger, as she sees her generation as the future.

“These are our lives and we’re growing up,” Gillis said. “I’m going to be 18 in a few years. I’m going to have kids one day. I want to pave the road  because, right now, our younger generation people are starting to listen, which doesn’t usually happen, so we need to band together before it all goes wrong.”

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Walkouts only one form of political involvement for students