Tomorrow, on March 14, a 17 minute silent sit down will be held in the landing at 10:05 a.m. to recognize the victims of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on Feb. 14.
This sit down was organized with the collaboration of Student Council and Principal Jay Opperman. Opperman approached Student Council after talking to Superintendent Blane McCann, and they agreed if Westside High School was going to participate in the national conversation, they wanted it to be student-run.
Opperman emailed the Student Council Supervisor Kathlene Groth and asked to go to a Student Council meeting. He said he wanted to discuss ways students could productively use their voices on topics like school safety. According to Opperman, the school cannot take a political stance on the issue of gun violence, but the school can approach the issue from the standpoint of school safety.
“Even though [the Parkland shooting] didn’t happen directly here, it impacted schools all over the country,” Opperman said.
At the first Student Council meeting Opperman attended on Friday, March 2, he brought up the idea of Westside student action and then sat back to let Student Council brainstorm.
“I guess I was really planting a seed,” Opperman said. “I was just encouraging … some ideas to be generated through Student Council.”
Student Council President Stephanie Lund said students discussed how Westside’s action should be a positive experience for everyone and not cause too much disruption to the school day.
“It was really [Opperman’s] initiation of the conversation about, like, who’s going to do it,” Lund said. “Because we as students obviously knew about [the walkouts and protests] … we just didn’t necessarily know exactly how Westside was going to do it.”
Student Council Vice President Hailey Tierra said they split up the council by grade and had individuals come up with ideas. When they came together again, the council determined what they would propose to Opperman. On the following Tuesday, March 6, Opperman met with Student Council officers and they presented their ideas. For March 14, they came up with the sit down during mod four. One of the reasons Opperman and Student Council said they decided to host a sit down instead of a walk out was because of safety.
“From a supervision standpoint, I just feel that [a sit down] is better,” Opperman said. “It’s safer.”
For mod four on Wednesday, students will not be counted tardy or absent if they attend the sit down, but will need to return to their mod five class as usual. There will be no modified schedule and a path will be taped through the landing to allow for students to safely get to class. Opperman sent an email out to staff on March 12 explaining how to make sure the sit down happens in a safe and orderly manner.
“It’s nice because I think [the administration] can’t condone everything that we do, because obviously truancy is illegal, but at the same time they are working really hard to work with us because they know that this issue is important to many students,” Lund said. “They want us to exercise our right to protest and to speak out as well as doing it in an appropriate and a conducive manner to Westside.”
On Saturday, March 24, the March for Our Lives, promoting more gun control, will be held in Lincoln. A national school walkout is planned for April 20. Student Council and Opperman haven’t worked out the details of what will occur at Westside.
Story by Malia Battafarano and Julia Steiner