Students at high schools in Utah, and around the nation, have organized a walkout and demonstration for Wednesday to walk out of class for 17 minutes in commemoration of each of the lives lost at the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Students have also planned a march to the state Capitol on March 24.
Most school districts are working with the student organizers and do not plan to discipline students who walk out of class. That’s good, because there’s nothing wrong, and everything right, with a peaceful demonstration by young adults for a cause that directly affects them.
Jeff Haney, spokesman for Canyons School District, said, “Every effort has been made to identify safe spaces for students to express themselves.”
Safe spaces should be the goal. Full stop.
The Salt Lake City School District is planning a “Week of Friendship” where they encourage students to befriend 17 other students they don’t already know in honor of the Parkland victims.
Rep. Mia Love posted praise on her Facebook page for students at Westlake High School, who instead of promoting a walkout are promoting a “walk up,” “to the kid who sits alone at lunch,” and other ideas to befriend fellow students. The movement challenges students to walk up to 14 students and say something nice.
There is no one solution to the school shooting tragedies. Appropriately, and wisely, the students have focused attention on the importance of gun reform and school safety and reaching out to others who may feel depressed and alone.
Our children are in school all day long. They see things at school and on social media that adults don’t notice. They see who’s lonely and who needs a friend. They see who’s selling drugs or other contraband. They see who is fighting with who.
Utah lawmakers were vocal about their willingness to pass reforms at the end of this year’s session. But in the end, they didn’t pass anything.
They did create a school safety commission to study the issue. And they deserve credit for including two students on that safety commission.
Whether your sons or daughters, neighbors or grandchildren are planning to walk out of school on Wednesday, or to “walk up” to those who need friends, support them. Ask them if they’re participating. Ask about their feelings about guns and school safety. Have a dialogue with them.
You may be surprised what you learn.