Student Walkout in Support of Stoneman

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Student Walkout in Support of Stoneman

Colleen Reilly, Staff Writer

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On March 14, 2018, Downingtown East High School participated in a nationwide walkout, one month after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. Organized by Olivia Hunt (12) and Matt Pyle (12), students were dismissed and had return by 10:27 AM to classes. The walkout began with a 17 second moment of silence for the 17 victims, then 17 student leaders, ranging from freshman to seniors, spoke on the behalf of the 17 victims. “It has definitely been eye opening to learn about each of the victims and helped me realize that their deaths should have purpose, which is how the new safety committee was created,” said Bhanva Nagoti (12), who spoke on behalf of Luke Hoyer, a fifteen year old who had a contagious smile and passion for basketball, who died during the Stoneman Douglas shooting.

Planning the walkout began about a week after the Parkland shooting. Olivia said, “As we planned and word spread, more and more students approached me asking to be involved. I thought what better way for them to help than to be representatives of our message and show a physical representation of the 17 victims from Parkland. This illustrates how universal these shootings are, that they can and have happened to students just like us.”

Matt and Olivia gave speeches during the walkout, with Matt talking about tighter security at DEHS and Olivia speaking about student empowerment and spreading more kindness around East. Olivia said, “I think it’s really important to look at this issue from a non-political standpoint. Whether or not you believe in pushing anti-gun legislation as a response, it isn’t something that we have direct control over within the school. However, we do have direct control over our security procedures and the atmosphere between students, which is something I hope students of any and every political inclination will stand behind. My involvement with this process was mostly motivated by the desire to present that message to students. Matt Pyle, a senior class co-president, has also been helping me along the way. His focus has been geared toward tightening security, while mine has been toward kindness and decreasing student isolation.”

Matt and Zach Oris (12), co-senior class presidents, spoke at the walkout about how the senior class class gift will be tighter security. Matt said, “What Zach and I are doing this year is basically lobbying on the school board through Principal Hurley. Zach and I both saw gaps in East’s safety system and thought the contribution of more security measures would be a productive legacy to leave at our school (Bullying hotline, door barricades, etc.). Those things will be our senior gift. To some it may seem like a boring thing to leave behind, but I get it. It is difficult to appreciate something that doesn’t necessarily bring you pleasure. But the truth is, students at East will be much safer in the future because mental health and gun threats are both getting addressed by our contributions. East will be a very secure and tightly-knit school as a result of Zach and I’s additions. Classrooms will be the safe havens they are supposed to be and students can worry less at East about the isolation of other students because the anonymous bullying hotline should prompt students to speak up if they see suspicious signs.”

Wearing orange, like the rest of the student body, Matt also said, “I got a lot of positive reactions about the walkout from my friends and I think the student body as a whole respected the event. It looked to me like there was 700+ students that came out, maybe even a lot more. It was a really cold day so I appreciate  all those kids for listening for that long.”

Not only did East participate in the walkout, but students sent love and support down to Stoneman Douglas after the terrible incident. Student Council sent down a banner that said “DEHS stands with MSD” and had the student body sign it with love and positivity. Key Club wrote letters of support to the students, staff and community of Stoneman Douglas.

It is the hope of the student protest that the #neveragain mantra will last a lasting effect.

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