Over 70 students walk out protesting gun violence

Students from all grades come together to join a conversation


Caroline Hardy

More than 70 students signed up to participate in the walkout, and even more actually came.

March 14, 2018—Exactly one month after the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left seventeen students and faculty dead and many more wounded, students at Blake walked out of the school and stood outside for seventeen minutes to honor those seventeen lives lost. Organized primarily by Zehra Khan ‘18 and Annika Gutzke ‘19, the walkout was nonpartisan to allow, as Gutzke states, “all members of our community to participate and not feel as if ideas are being scrutinized.” Khan adds, “Our community can come together and show that we don’t incite that violence and…stand with the victims.”

At 9:40 am during tutorial, students and faculty walked out in front of the school and heard powerful speeches from peers urging remembrance and engagement in civic discourse. In his speech, Will Lyman ‘19 declared “we can’t afford to distance ourselves from these tragedies, and we can’t allow these victims to fade into oblivion until another shooting disrupts our ignorance.” All of the speeches highlighted that Blake is not immune to the violence; the majority of the seventeen that died were high schoolers and had the same hopes and dreams many Blake students do. Students then spread out around the front of the school and the seventeen minutes of silence began. With the the temperature hovering around freezing, the seventeen minutes did not pass quickly. Khan read off the names of the victims in Florida and then left everyone to their own thoughts. Scott Klinefelter ‘20 reflects, “you really had to meditate on what you were out there for.” Yolanda Pauly ‘21 agrees,  “Each minute that went by, that was someone’s life….it was a long seventeen minutes, but it was powerful.”

Youth from the Women’s March organization organized the nationwide walkout. Rachel Eggert ‘19, a participant of the Blake walkout,  reflects, “We are…part of a national voice, we all want gun violence [in schools] to end and it makes [the walkout] so much more powerful to know that other schools and other people agree.” Over 3,136  student-organized non-partisan walkouts occured throughout the United States to remember the victims of the February 14th school shooting. Activism, says Khan “reminds you that you have a civic duty to voice your opinions.” Social Studies teacher, David Graham agrees, “it was very inspiring to see all of the students out there on the steps…and to have the school community talk about it as well.” Faculty have not held a formal meeting about the walkouts, but “certainly the Social Studies department is supportive of students engaging [in civic discourse]” states Graham.

Even though the majority of the participating youth nationwide cannot vote, marching is a way to make their voices heard. The March 14 walkout is only the start of youth-led demand for change; there are two more student-led marches planned in the next two months. The March For Our Lives will occur March 24 at noon. Organized by students who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where the shooting occurred this past Valentine’s Day, students will march down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. and in sibling marches all over the county, including in St. Paul, Minnesota. Students will march for school safety and the necessity of appropriate gun legislation.

Additionally, Lane Murdock, a student in Connecticut, started a petition on change.org, organizing a national school walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the deadly Columbine Massacre, where two high school seniors murdered twelve students and one teacher. Entitled #NationalSchoolWalkout, Murdock calls for students to walk out of class and wear orange as a way to demand change. Over 200,000 people have since signed his petition. With all of these marches, youth are “are building our voice for the future,” says Eggert, “we are the youngest generation and we have to make change.”

Since the start of 2018 alone, according to everytown.org, there have been twenty-one school shootings, with seven children or teens dying on average every day. The teens and children of America are now campaigning to change these statistics. As Khan states, “Activism starts at a young age…one day you will be a voter. It’s your responsibility to make sure your voice is heard.”