Enough is Enough: Westside Middle School attempting to end violence in schools

Benjamin Kutler and Luke Steiner

Middle School Guest Writers

 

Protests and marches have been happening nationally and locally in response to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. Communities have come together to stand up for the victims and demand that action is taken to ensure safety in schools and an end to gun violence. Scheduled by Student Council with help from teachers, the students participated in daily events. The events included being challenged throughout the week with saying “hi” to someone new each day, signing a pledge for kindness, and distributing orange shirts that say, “Enough is Enough” and “Warriors for Safe Schools”. On the final day of the safe school week, students were brought to each of the gyms for a moment of silence to honor the victims while selected students sang “Hallelujah.”  A sea of orange created by the shirts was a sign of hope for many, and a sign of respect for those whose lives were lost. Eighth grader Kidus Tewodros, one of the selected singers, was glad to be a part of raising awareness on the topic.

“I feel that us singing this is impacting the school by making everyone mindful of the tragedy that has happened at Parkland and how we can prevent a tragedy like that happening at our school,” Tewodros said.

Much of this movement was student led. Principal Russ Olsen said he was glad to see his student’s taking action.

“I’m extremely proud of our students and how they’ve handled themselves over the past several weeks,” Olsen said. “It’s just really cool to see everybody come together [talking] about keeping our school safe. ”

Olsen said he has already witnessed students making efforts to become more friendly with their peers.

Not all students felt that the peaceful sit-in organized by the school was enough. A handful of 7th and 8th graders took matters into their own hands and led an outdoor walkout on March 14 to protest “protecting kids, not guns”. Unfortunately, their actions came with negative consequences. In an email sent to students Olsen stated, “We truly want to make this a learning opportunity about our democracy and how the power of committed individuals can make a difference…[although] WMS will not support student’s walking out of the building in a protest to school violence.”  Consequences such as in school suspensions were given to students who decided to walk out, despite administrative policy. Eighth grader Charlie Schumaker was one of the main activists leading the walkout.

“We are trying to fight for safety in schools, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Shumaker said. “They are trying to censor us…they shouldn’t be able to do that.”

Helena Moray, a member of student council, understood the consequence but didn’t believe it was necessary.

“No, it’s not okay to get up and leave class, but we did it for a good reason,” Moray said. “We weren’t going out to do anything illegal, we were going out to share our voice, which is our right.”

Though the consequence did keep many from going out, seventh grader Jack Meehan, a supporter of the cause, had a different view.

“The reason I didn’t go out for the march is it wasn’t really that impactful since for many people it was just to get out of school,” Meehan said.

Students are still fighting for school safety and are taking every step they can to move in the right direction. The movement put on by WMS was small, but for many impactful. Whether it was the moment of silence or hearing the harmonic chords of “Hallelujah”, the events touched many hearts.

Photos by Benjamin Kutler

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