“Protect kids, not guns,” echoed chants in the LSW courtyard Wednesday morning as about 300 hundred students walked out of classes to support an end to gun violence.
The purpose of the group of students who led the demonstration was to allow students the opportunity to protest in a positive and safe way.
Senior Matildah Darkwah said she thought the demonstration went well. “I was surprised at the turnout. I didn’t think a lot of people would come…The turnout was amazing and I just want to thank everyone who came out, who was willing to stand up for their rights and fight for their future,” Darkwah said.
Some students expressed fears about showing up for the demonstration because of a rumored possible threat of violence. Senior Chloe Metheny Morris said she had two reasons that prevented her from demonstrating along with the other students in the courtyard. “I was a little nervous and I just feel like some people weren’t there for the right reasons…If I want to do something I want it to have an actual impact,” Metheny Morris said.
After receiving reports of social media post Tuesday, administration passed the information on to the Lee’s Summit Police Department. A letter from Principal Dr. Chad Hertzog and the Lee’s Summit Police information officer was emailed late Tuesday afternoon to parents and teachers. The information stated there was an ongoing investigation and that the suspect had been taken into custody for questioning. The information also stated that the suspect did not attend West or any LSR7 school.
Several West students said they were aware of a Snapchat post by a previous West student who no longer attends the school, that was believed to have started the issue.
Today during the walkout, all five administrators as well as counselors, campus security officers, teachers and the LSPD were all in the courtyard to ensure the students safety. “Ultimately I don’t know if the threat was legitimate or not. You never really know but you can never take them too seriously,” Hertzog said.
The administration was very cautious about the threat and took the measures they felt were necessary to protect the students who participated in the walkout. “That area I believe was as secure as it’s ever been for any event. I felt like students could really go out there and speak their mind in a safe, secure environment,” Hertzog said.
Part of this security was credited to the LSPD who provided assistance in investigating the rumors of the threat made Tuesday. “I couldn’t be more proud to live in a community where our police department takes things so seriously and does their job so efficiently,” Hertzog said.
This was the first time students have walked out during Hertzog’s career as an administrator, but he said he thought the students handled the demonstrations well. “I thought our student body handled it exceptionally…it never got out of hand and I think for students to pull that off together without any real adult help…really spoke to how mature and beyond their years these students are to be able to handle things like this,” Hertzog said.
While the administration provided protection, they did not comment on or offer support for or against gun control through their presence. “I would say we did not support the cause…We are not going to take a stance as a school on either side of this. On gun control, not gun control, arming the teachers, whatever it is we did not take a stance on that,” Hertzog said.
The administration did not provide an opinion on the purpose of the demonstration, but they did provide an opportunity for students to express how they felt about the school shootings. “I think we did take a stance on saying to our students ‘We support you in being able to express your feelings and your voice’ and I think that was the appropriate way to handle it,” Hertzog said.
Hertzog said he approved of the efforts of the students to unite to express themselves. “I was more proud of them than I ever have been really throughout the school year because they were able to do something on their own and provide their own level of leadership for this event,” Hertzog said.
For the future, Hertzog said he thinks that students should be able to share their voice however, not always in the form of a walkout. “I don’t know that walkouts are the answer to everything…I do think that the answer is for students to join together when they believe in something strongly and handle themselves exactly as they did today. It was very inspirational today,” Hertzog said.
While the walkout only lasted 17 minutes, students still wish to continue to outcry against gun violence inside the walls of education. “We need to continue to talk about it…provide an outlet for people to talk about it, to have demonstrations until Congress does something to stop these things in schools,” Darkwah said.