By Sydney Donath and Berit Kirkegaard, Kewaskum High School students
On March 14, from 10 to 10:17 a.m., Kewaskum students and staff participated in a walkout to commemorate the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting last month.
A group of about 40 students and staff members exited the school Wednesday morning through the main doors and walked to the football field where they stood in a circle in silence for the entire 17 minutes.
High school students were joined by two middle schoolers who also wanted to honor the 17 victims. Each silent minute that passed represented each innocent life taken. More than 3,000 marches and walkouts took place across the country on the one month anniversary of the devastating Florida shooting at approximately the same time of day that it took place.
The movement was organized by students to memorialize the victims and demand action, but Kewaskum organizers made it clear that their efforts were strictly in memory of those who died one month ago.
Most Kewaskum students were made aware of the opportunity to walk out through social media and the school’s recently established Social Change Club. “I did this because I wanted to stand up for the innocent lives that were lost,” one high school participant said. “I think it’s important that students share their opinions.” Another student stated that “the students who participated were amazing,” and those involved agreed that the situation was handled respectfully by students, teachers and administrators.
One educator explained, “I think it’s my job as a teacher to foster environments where students and individuals can voice their opinions and feel like they are heard and respected.” Kewaskum School District parents received an email approximately a week prior to the walkout informing them of the option and encouraging discussion with their children.
Those who did participate were required to have parental permission in order for the absence to be recorded as excused. Students, however, were not the only ones who walked out on Wednesday morning.
Local teachers were also supportive of students who made their voices heard, some even leaving the school in solidarity. “I’m proud to see students taking initiative and exercising their rights in a respectful, peaceful way,” said a local teacher. “I think it was a powerful thing no matter where you stand politically or socially; I think it’s a powerful thing when we encourage our students to use their voices and the power that they do have.”
Not all teachers had the option to take part in the walkout because classes proceeded as usual, but many who had prep time at 10 a.m. joined students in the memorial. The previously mentioned teacher also stated that “doing what we can doesn’t stop at a walkout, but it doesn’t hurt to make our voices heard in a more national way and to be a part of the movement.”