by Anne-Emilie Rouffiac
On Thursday, March 14, 2019, around 200 GHS students walked out of class at 10:00 AM to show their support for stricter gun control laws in the United States. A little over a year after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, these students joined a wave of nationwide demonstrations taking place on Thursday. The Connecticut Supreme Court also focused on gun laws on Thursday, ruling that the parents of Sandy Hook victims could sue the marketing strategies of Remington Arms, the manufacturer of the gun used by the shooter.
“Everyone always says ‘something has to change’, but no one knows what that ‘something’ is,” junior Melissa Woo explained. But, the walkout participants found the issue they are passionate about while gaining a deeper understanding of the policies they wish to put forth.
“[Now] it’s time for us to make our voices heard and fight for the change that we want to see,” Melissa added.
Although they made themselves heard, the students felt a lingering disappointment.
“No one is doing enough to help this problem,” junior Isabelle Abbasi explained. The walk-out captured some students’ frustration toward Congress and Washington, D.C, which, in their view, have failed to pass gun control measures after fatal school shootings.
“I feel very strongly about this issue and I think it hasn’t been heard loud enough this school year,” freshmen Sophia Crafso emphasized. “I think it’s great that we’re doing this march to raise awareness of it.”
Organized mainly by the Young Democrats Club at GHS, the walk-out lasted 20 minutes and aimed to convey the participants’ support for government action on school safety and gun violence. Many came prepared with posters that they held up as they walked.
Chants rang through the air, energizing the march and encouraging participants to raise their voices. “This is what democracy looks like”, students cried. “What do we want? Gun control. When do we want it? Now!”
The students’ were united by their chants but also by their belief that the issue impacts all people. They shared a vision for a future without gun violence.
“Gun violence is something that is especially relevant in a lot of the lives of kids our age and it’s really important that we stand up for something that is so awful and affects so many kids … every year, more than it ever should,” sophomore Ralph Bologna explained.
The march ended in the front circle of the school, where the participants gathered to hear the words of the walkout’s leaders. “More than 221,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine” one leader said to the crowd.
Gigi Imperatore, president of the Young Democrats Club, passionately delivered the concluding speech.
“I want to remind you that you are the change. Your voice matters! When you speak up about what matters, it empowers someone else. If you change yourself, you will change your world. If you change how you think, you change how you feel and what actions you take. And so the world around you will change. Enough is enough!” Gigi said.
Many students accepted unexcused absences, or cuts, from class as a consequence of walking out. However, there were teachers who allowed the students to leave without marking them as absent. When asked why she was walking out, for example, junior Mira Lukazik said “Because my PE teacher is a queen and let us! And because I feel strongly about the issue.”
Some students chose not to attend the event due to their personal views about gun laws and government action.
Others did not participate because they did not wish to receive a cut, miss class, or skip scheduled academic commitments. Even though she attended a similar walkout at GHS last year, Sophia McGowan explained, “I was meeting with a teacher so I had a prior commitment.” A sophomore, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained that they could not afford to miss another class for they would get a “skip” and begin losing credit.
While the school did not explicitly express support for or opposition to the walkout, it took certain steps to ensure safety: several school administrators and police officers walked with the students. Thus, the school was aware of the walkout before it took place.
The students, however, led the march. They fought for their beliefs and collective vision, fueling the surge of student activism across the globe.