By Jack Dennison ’21
One month after the events in Parkland, students nationwide walked out of their school for 17 minutes to protest gun violence in schools. Videos of these walkouts surfaced all over social media, from students in New York City going onto the streets with signs protesting the NRA to Parkland, Florida, where students flooded the football field and chanted “We want change!” Almost every high school in America had students walk out in protest. Staples High School was an exception.
Our school’s walkout was not a walkout at all, but an administration sponsored assembly in the disguise of a protest. If students want to make a difference, they should not be willing to have their plans tweaked by the administrators of Staples.
Before the walkout, Principal James D’Amico sent out an email to students explaining the rules of the walkout. Firstly, the walkout was to be 45 minutes as opposed to 17. This move destroyed the symbolism of having each minute represent a student or teacher fallen in the shooting. Additionally, nobody was allowed to exit the school and the “walk-out” would be held in the fieldhouse. The expectation was that students would actually exit the building, however it seemed that it was just a protest in a loud and crammed fieldhouse. The last rule in the email that disappointed students, such as myself, is that no pictures or videos were allowed. This prevented pictures or videos of the walkout to spread and go viral on social media.
As opposed to a protest, the walkout itself felt more like an assembly. There were multiple speakers, and it felt like we were listening to the students speak rather than stand up to change. Whenever anyone tried to start a chant or cheer, they were shushed down by the teacher advisors. The so-called walkout felt overplanned, artificial and unexciting.
I would not have attended the walkout if I had known that it would function more as an assembly than as an actual protest, or say, a walkout. The point of the walkout was to protest schools and the government, so the irony is that the school administration had complete control on what the walkout would be like.
If the administration had the power to limit students’ freedom of assembly, which is stated in the Constitution as an inalienable right, then we must ask ourselves how much further the administration has the ability to limit the freedom of students. If the administration could control student-organized events, then the point of the events has been nulled.