Caught in a Crossroads

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Students honor those who were lost by signing their names to a banner during the walkout on March 15th.

Students honor those who were lost by signing their names to a banner during the walkout on March 15th.

Thomas Denny

Thomas Denny

Students honor those who were lost by signing their names to a banner during the walkout on March 15th.

Hayli Manning, Opinion Editor

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You can protest, but only under our terms.

Youth from across the country have pledged to stand up against the lax gun laws by walking out of school together, including in Holbrook. On March 14th at 10:00 am, students all over America stood up from their desks, walked out of school and devoted seventeen minutes of silence to the seventeen youth whose innocent lives were robbed of them at Stoneman Douglas High School just weeks ago. However, Holbrook students held their walkout on the 15th because of a blizzard. For nearly two decades, students have been reeling from the violence of tragedies like the Columbine shooting, but yet another school shooting has once again renewed waves of emotion across the country.

Although they are aware that many youth cannot vote yet, students are consciously advocating for legislators to enact stricter gun laws by voicing their own opinions on the issues. Students from across the nation have been working together to exercise their first amendment right in staging the walkout. America’s youth are organizing their very own revolution. They have been creating Instagram polls, tweets, and group chats to ask their friends if they would be participating in the walkout as well. Students feel so strongly about their safety and the safety of their peers that many are willing to accept any disciplinary action that could be taken against them.

But a letter sent out by Superintendent Julie Hamilton on Wednesday, February 28th explained the district’s views on students participating in the upcoming nationwide walkout. “After meeting with our School Safety Officer, Detective, Scott Glover…. We have organized the following: …Any student who wishes to leave class… will be allowed to assemble in the STEAM Commons area or the cafeteria (inside the building)… [and] will be limited to seventeen minutes.”
Using phrases like “we have organized,” “will be allowed,” and “will be limited,” sends us youth a message. Students at Holbrook High were no longer allied with other students across the nation. We were no longer organizing our own protest. Now, the administration had organized the opportunity for us to protest. This was basically saying that we are allowed to exercise our rights, but only if we do it on their terms. And many students rightfully wondered, if people stay inside the building during a nationwide walkout, is it still really a walkout?

But giving students permission to be a part of the protest takes away the risk altogether. For some it was no longer a protest, but an excuse to get out of third period.”

Several students voiced this concern to the administration and to their credit, the policy was updated to allow students to exit door 16. This is where a banner was provided for students to express their condolences for the victims.
On the surface this support is a positive sign, but does school administration permitting us to partially participate in the protest strip the walkout of its validity? Part of the point of the walkout is to defy the school’s everyday rules. Does the school’s acknowledgment of the walkout defeat the purpose? Most importantly, we should be wondering if this is censorship. Are they taking our voices away from us by co-opting our message?

Prior to the letter being distributed, the majority of students that I had spoken with were interested in doing the walkout despite the risk of punishment. But giving students permission to be a part of the protest takes away the risk altogether. For some it was no longer a protest, but an excuse to get out of third period. Now, it’s the students who are invalidating Holbrook’s protest. Everybody else will be doing it, right? However, after the distribution of the letter, I heard two underclassmen lamenting that there would be so many student present that were not truly dedicated to the spirit of the event, arguing that the protest was no longer “even worth it.” And is it? To determine that, we would need to define the core reasons for holding a walkout in the first place.

One reason for students unifying in school courtyards and parking lots is to mourn and honor the victims lost in the recent tragedy. These students were innocent people, torn from their families, friends and fellow students. These seventeen students deserve honor and justice.

But the purpose is also to call attention to a communal necessity for change. Key word here: necessity. In order to show changemakers how many youth are advocating for stricter gun laws, students will be taking photos and videos, and sending them to legislators. Leaving the building and standing outside will give a visual representation of how many students legitimately care about the nation’s gun laws. Protests, the bigger they are, will show government officials how many of us there are that feel passionately.

We need to all be in this collectively, both physically and philosophically, if we ever want to see real change. The students of this country are the ones who will evolve into our future leaders, teachers, and activists. No — we already are all of those things. The situation isn’t ‘when we grow up, we’ll have to deal with the laws that are enacted now.’ We are being affected right now. Our fellow leaders, our fellow learners and friends have become victims for far too long. We’re done waiting for change, we’re making it happen.

Shantal Infante
A rose to honor victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida during Holbrook’s walkout.

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