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York students participate in national walkout day, honor lives lost and demand change

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Photo by Nate Swanson
Seniors Bella Young (left) and Melanie Falco (right) display their signs demanding gun reform laws. March 14, 2018.

Today at 10 a.m., York students joined high school students throughout the nation in a walkout to honor the 17 lives lost at Stoneman Douglas. The walkout was organized by a mixture of students who were passionate about York participating in the nationwide walkout after a discussion began in EMPOWER club.

At 9:55, students left their classrooms to join the leaders of the walkout who had already congregated on the steps to the Performance Arts & Aquatics Entrance. Ellen Wells, a former student of Stoneman Douglas and current senior at York, read aloud the names of the 17 people whose lives were lost at Stoneman Douglas . Her sister Finley Wells still attends Stoneman Douglas and was at school Feb. 14.

Photo by Nate Swanson
A York student holds a sign that signifies the meaning behind the 17 minutes for the walkout and how it represents the same amount of students that lost their lives at Stoneman Douglas High School exactly one month ago. Wed., March 14, 2018

“When we first found out that schools were walking out and they were protesting, we thought that it would be a good idea to get our school involved as well,” said senior Carleigh Vandenbrook. “One of our own students attended the school that was part of the shooting, so we thought we needed [to take part in] a nationwide walkout.”

Photo by Madeleine DeGrace
Corinn McKenna and Carleigh Vandenbrook stand on the top of the steps with the rest of the EMPOWER members and other students involved.

After a series of chants, the student leaders at the front introduced the next stage of the walkout, which was listening to student speeches which were chosen from a pool submitted to the @yhs.walkout Instagram page.

“This is a great time to have students share their opinions in a controlled and passionate setting,” senior Cambria Khayat, who was part of the organizational team, said. “Everyone who is walking out has different personal views on why they are walking out, so this allows students to speak up and share with the group as a whole.”

Photo by Madeleine DeGrace
Seniors Kyra Stanton and Cambria Khayat lead chants all throughout the 17 minutes.

Sophomore Jack Castanoli was the first to step up and speak, his speech focusing on how York connects to the victims at Stoneman Douglas and the policies he believed have contributed to the tragedy.

“Seventeen innocent students and teachers, just like us, with chances of graduations, marriages, and future children of their own . . . .” Casanoli said. “Yet they have lost their chance. They have lost their chance because an 18-year-old can buy a weapon of war before he can buy a drink.”

Photo by Nate Swanson
Sophomore Jack Castanoli mentions past major shootings, asking how many more lives will be lost before we make a change. Wed., March 14, 2018

Junior Savannah Mallon then took the microphone, her speech diverging from the students and focusing on the politicians themselves.

“Our politicians have said time and time again that they will make the change America has been waiting for,” Mallon said. “But with so many issues circling the forefront of our media, it has been hard for politicians to decide which problems they should promise reform on, and they fail to follow through.”

The formal speech section was closed off by sophomore Graham Reid, who based his message on statistics cited by the gunviolencearchive.org. 

Photo by Madeleine DeGrace
Student body president Olivia Pechous offers words of encouragement and calling out to congress to take action.

“In 2012, six and seven year olds were murdered at Sandy Hook,” Reid said. “Since then, there have been more than 1,600 mass shootings, killing more than 1,800 – and Congress has done nothing.”

According to their website, the Gun Violence Archive “is not, by design an advocacy group. The mission of GVA is to document incidents of gun violence and gun crime nationally to provide independent, verified data to those who need to use it in their research, advocacy or writing.”

Photo by Madeleine DeGrace
Camille Steahly, junior, shows her support for safer schools.

Despite many calls for gun control regulations, those who chose to walk out did so for many reasons, whether it was in respect of those lost at Stoneman Douglas or to peacefully protest for more action, so these shootings no longer occur in schools.

“It’s wrong for students to have the possibility of a shooting in the back of their minds when they’re in school,” sophomore Kiya Lawler said. “I know students who map exits out of the building if there’s a shooter. That’s not what students should worry about.”

Photo by Nate Swanson
Freshman Allie Sidio proudly raises her poster, which calls for gun reform in order to protect not only students’ education, but their lives, too. Wed., March 14, 2018

There was certainly a wealth of passion at the demonstration, although many students complained that they couldn’t hear the speakers or didn’t know what was going on. Some of those who walked out expected something different.

“They didn’t say anything about the kids,” said Ben Harrington, freshman in reference to his expectation that the 17 minutes were to be dedicated solely to those 17 people who lost thier lives. “This should be about the kids.” 

Photo by Nate Swanson
Junior Maddy Small holds a sign with the names of two of the many victims from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last month. Wed., March 14, 2018.

The walkout was maintained in front of the school, and administration and police didn’t interfere with the event, but were there to protect the students.

After the walkout, Principal Erin DeLuga sent an email to parents and guardians, reassuring them that students safely returned to classes.

“Our students acted responsibly and maturely and have returned to class,” DeLuga wrote.

Students listen to speeches during walkout in support of school safety. March 14. 2018.

A large number of students did not participate in the walkout, but they cite a variety of reasons. In keeping with the national conversation, some believed the walkout was more of a protest against the constitutional right to bear arms and do not support changes to the Second Amendment.

Some students said that, although they support the importance of continued awareness of and focus on school safety and gun violence issues, they had prior academic responsibilities to attend to, such as needing to be present in class for a test or the beginning of a new unit. Others didn’t participate because not many students in their class were participating and they did not want to be the only student in their class who walked out.

Photo by CeCe Lampa
Freshmen Anna Drewno and Gia Stephan hold up a sign that plays on the “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Overall most students agree that school safety is an important issue, even if they disagree on the root of the problem and the proposed solutions.  

For whatever reason each student decided to participate, the walkout was carried out in a peaceful way that allowed students to let their voices be heard and provided them an opportunity to listen to their classmates.  

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York students participate in national walkout day, honor lives lost and demand change