Our hearts shattered on February 14th when we learned of yet one more school-shooting episode, this time in Florida. The perpetrator was a student, a very troubled student, who had legal ownership of an automatic assault weapon.
Our minds struggled to wrap around this senseless tragedy. Even though we live in Michigan, we are connected. We are united, we feel the pain, we feel outrage, we mourn, and we want healing. We want these crazy making events to stop. We want them prevented all together. They must be!
Out of the devastation, fueled by the pain and accelerated by social media, has grown an impassioned movement. A movement of middle and high school students who have proven unstoppable! They have insisted on legislative and institutional reforms that insure non-violent, safe schools and sensible gun regulation. They have insisted on involvement in the democratic process and voter registration. Nationally, this movement is supported by over seventy-five action organizations and continues to grow. The movement’s symbolic Enough! National Student Walkout occurred nationwide on Wednesday, March 14.
Held within the safety of school halls or property and supported by district administrations and parents, Walkouts occurred in schools throughout Newaygo County. The movement asked that supportive community members walkout of places of employment or hold a separate vigil. Official school-sanctioned Walkouts were conducted at 10 am for 17 minutes, honoring the 17 people killed in Florida.
In solidarity with The Walkouts a group of concerned citizens gathered at the main stop light by Brooks Park in Newaygo on Wednesday morning. With the exception of a couple of negative gestures, we received affirming honks, hand waves, thumbs ups and smiles.
To the Newaygo County area students and all students nationwide, we applaud this student action. We give you a standing ovation for taking part in democracy, for giving voice and action to your outrage and concerns. We celebrate your articulate and visionary leadership. We support your plea for safe schools. We advocate for ongoing participation in this movement.
Safe schools can mean different things to people. The issue of safe schools has pummeled the radar of educators, parents and the public like an avalanche. We promote a focus on prevention.
School buildings do need sensible security measures, with unified law enforcement and school community training. It may be appropriate to have someone in the school that is armed, but arming teachers is not the answer. Even top notch, trained safety personnel can make mistakes. Hands down, we must have sensible gun laws that regulate and screen the user, the weapons sold and to whom they are sold.
Safe schools foster a culture of caring and problem solving. Schools must have the financial means to provide counseling, mental health services for students, and programs that address bullying and student isolation. Safe schools build community with families. They inform students on the democratic process and register them to vote. We applaud area teachers, staff and administrators who are striving toward these measures and goals, helping to create a safe, democratic school climate for our youth.
We thank this student movement from the bottom of our hearts. It brings hope to our violence weary lives, our community, our state and nation. We thank supportive families. We thank all Newaygo County school administrations that sanctioned local student participation. By doing so, Newaygo County connected to the wider National Student Walkout movement. To our community: please rally around student led actions and this student movement.
Sally C. Kane, Retired Teacher
Kathy Morrison, Retired Teacher
Sue Cyranoski, Concerned Citizen
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