As the bell for third hour rings on Wednesday, March 14, many desks will be empty as Titans join each other in a nationwide school walkout affiliated with the Women’s March Empower Program.
Senior Emily Baker is among the students organizing the walkout. “We started a twitter, someone has talked to administration because we don’t want to be going against administration we want to be working with them, someone has contacted the press and is trying to get coverage on it,” Baker said.
Those who plan to participate encourage each other to wear orange to show support for gun control. It will start at 10:00 a.m. and will last 17 minutes in honor of the 17 students and teachers who died in the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
Anyone choosing to do the walkout at West and will not be punished according to Assistant Principal Jesse Dziurawiec.
“The plan is to allow that to happen. We have a safe spot out in the courtyard for everyone to be out there. Ourselves and any extra teachers that are off that hour can help monitor and make sure things are okay out there and then at 10:17 everyone is going to be told that they need to head back to class,” Dziurawiec said.
Sophomore Jordan Dillabough said, “People should do it if they wholeheartedly believe that, like, that’s something they should participate in, but I feel like I don’t know enough about it to want to do it,” Dillabough said, “It’s an important issue, but I feel like it’s not really something I should do.”
Unlike Dillabough, some students are choosing to participate in the walkout, Dillabough said, “I feel like people who are doing it just to say they are like, getting out of class and are doing it just to do it because everyone else is, they shouldn’t be doing it,” Dillabough said, “I don’t think it should be anything too disruptive, like you shouldn’t walk out of class and be like ‘Oh we’re leaving!’, it should be like you walk out and you stand for what you need to stand for.”
While Dillabough is choosing not to participate in the walkout, there are many students like Freshman Jacob Allen who do plan to participate.
“I’m doing it so hopefully if enough students do it across the country, then it can bring the students’ power to the forefront of Congress so they can pass laws to protect schools from guns and not just sit on their hands,” Allen said.
One of the reasons Allen and other students are walking out is because they do not feel safe at school.
“Particularly at this school, I feel fairly safe, but as a district as a whole, I personally don’t think it’s a very safe district, just considering that recently this year that guns have been a big issue in our district, lots of suicides and four kids brought guns to school the other day at Lee’s Summit [High School],” Allen said, “it could happen to us, so that’s always in the back of my mind, but it’s not necessarily in the front of it throughout the entire day,”.
Along with there being a lot of talk about gun control, the issue of arming teachers with guns has also been brought up all throughout America. Some people are in support of the idea, while many others are not.
“Guns are a problem, and handing out more is not going to solve it. It’s like, if a kid brings a stick to school and then he hits his classmates with the stick, the teacher should just take away the stick, not get a stick herself and hit the student with the stick,” Allen said.
Another student who is planning to participate in the walkout is Sophomore Samara Estep.
“I think that the significance of a walkout is bringing the people together that want this change and feel that it is necessary and it’s that sense of comradery with people who have similar beliefs and similar goals want the same things for their future and the future of America,” Estep said.
Estep said that doing this walkout might not necessarily affect the government directly to make a change, but could bring the people together who believe that America needs gun control and go from there.
Some places like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods have changed policies in response to recent action from students across the country.
“If we go on and we keep pushing our message and we push it to the people who are important, if we take this walkout as the first step and keep going, that’s when we’ll see the change that we really want,” Estep said.
Baker said she thinks people won’t want to participate if because they feel it won’t make and impact, but that this isn’t true.
“They don’t think it will affect anything, but when so many people have this problem and we’re all unified and we make a unified from it makes a difference for people in office and our congressman,” Baker said “The see that these kids are concerned and we as students shouldn’t be concerned and be scared to come to school.”
Allen and Estep are among those who no longer feel safe at school.
“You get into these situations with people who make you feel uncomfortable and mention guns or any other type of weapon in a very casual way and while they are [and] can be used for casual recreation, they don’t really have a place in the schoolhouse,” Estep said.
Student protesting is how students like Allen and Estep the bring attention of their beliefs to the school.
Besides the walkout on March 14, another is planned on April 20th for the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. It is not affiliated with the March walkout, but is a another way for people to show their protest against school shootings. In addition to the High School walkouts there will also be a national march on March 24 in support of gun law reform. Locally this will take place both in Kansas City and Lee’s Summit
Estep said her message for other students and the school is, “This is not a joke, people are dying and this is something we need to be taking more seriously.”