The New Everyday Reality and What Comes Next
May 18, 2018
Across the nation bookbags dropped, silence pervaded campus, and the only movement was that of onlookers. On March 14, students took a stand against gun violence in schools. What began as a protest organized by students from Parkland spread to form a mass movement.
At Charlotte Latin a scheduled assembly turned into a clear statement sent to adults around the school of students’ concern with the world in which we live. Administration planned for all students to gather in Thies Auditorium for 17 minutes of silent reflection for the lives lost in Parkland. However, a group of senior leaders created their own movement that they believed better represented the goal of the Parkland organizers. While student leaders acknowledge the importance of grieving, they also saw the necessity to create a statement to address the larger issues of gun violence within schools.
“I think we needed to do something else, because we couldn’t be seen if we only sat in an auditorium. We knew we needed to do something that would force people to see what we wanted them to know,” Matthew Jordan ’18 said.
The student leaders were driven by a goal not only of creating awareness for this epidemic but also the student driven aspect of the movement.
“I found myself drawn to this movement because it was so student-led. To be a high school senior I felt like I had an opportunity and a duty to stand up and do something about this,” said Ethan Holtzman ’18.
In the quad 50 students peacefully assembled with signs asking questions of the adults and students around them: “What do we do in an active shooter situation? Run. Where? Hide. How? Fight? How?” The protest exemplified the fears held by students after witnessing countless shootings in the news over the year. The theme was questions and answers. Leaders of the event aimed to avoid finger pointing or placing blame but wanted instead to raise awareness; they wanted students to take this experience beyond the 17 minutes of silence.
“When it hit home for me how terrifying this time is was when I was in my AP Lit class and one of my friends asked what do we do if a shooter comes in here because there are two windows on each of the walls and there’s one door, so you’re trapped and there’s nowhere to hide. I sat there thinking for the rest of class, What do I do? It’s terrifying that we have to think about that,” Laura Scott Cary ‘18 said.
With those fears placed out in the open, requests for more school lockdown drills and increased campus security, among other measures, are being discussed within the student body. The student-led movement has shown the capability of students to step up and demand action, but that doesn’t end with a movement or a brief promise of possible new security features.
Since the Parkland shooting, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods have raised the minimum age for gun buyers to 21, the governor of Vermont has put into effect gun control measures and a national conversation about how to protect our schools has begun. While all three measures appear as steps in the right direction, citizens of the United States, and in particular students, need to keep the momentum going.
The epidemic of mass shootings placed overwhelming fear into students in the United States, so many have flocked to demanding increased safety in schools. However, would asking for higher security presence solve the issue in its entirety? Some argue to solve this issue teachers should hold firearms, some point to clear backpacks, and others ask for increased security. The problem presents a number of contradicting solutions.
There is no doubt that for now school shootings remain part of our reality and preparing for a worst case scenario makes sense, but do a few new security measures aid in students who live in constant fear? For many of us this epidemic has been normalized over time. We routinely see shootings on the news, but frankly at times finding a solution feels hopeless.
Many of us double check where we sit in class to find the best escape, and we live under constant suspicion, so much so that we accept the possibility of a school shooter as more probable and dooming than a hurricane. That leaves students in a position where they can advocate for safety, but to truly solve the issue at hand it’s necessary that we join together in advocating for real gun control.
If we want to change our everyday reality of fear, then we have to change the mentality around gun policy and elect people to represent that. For many of us we can vote this year or next year in local elections. Local politics have the capability of making reform on a local scale. We should demand accountability on behalf of our representatives and advocate for our own safety. Our reality can’t change with the addition of more secure schools, but with proper legislation the next generation won’t have to live waiting for the next school shooting.
“It’s history in the making,” Jordan said. “I think we have to keep moving forward. It’s not about changing the minds of others; it’s about gaining enough support on your side so that change happens. For seniors who are old enough, it’s about bringing them out to the polls and for students not old enough to vote, don’t force your opinion on them. Rather, raise them right and lead them. Let them find out how they can help.”