The East Vision

Student activists organize high school walkout

Michael Barnes and Emily Bergstrom

East participates in national walkout

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day of love and showing affection towards the ones that you love; instead, 19-year-old Nickolas Cruz walked into Florida’s Parkland High School with terrible intentions.

Cruz walked into the high school with an AR-15 rifle and took 17 innocent lives for no reason at all. It’s evident that now is the time for change.

The students at Parkland High and all around the country have started a movement with the hashtag of #neveragain.

This movement is all about ensuring that families, students, and teachers will never to have to endure another school shooting again. Parkland students have gone to Washington D.C. to protest for stricter gun control laws and have held town hall meetings discussing this issue.

One student here at East Grand Rapids has taken this issue into their own hands as well. Jordan Plumstead ’20 has started a movement.

“Everyone can participate in this school walkout — parents, students, and even teachers. Parents can come and support their kids and fight for what they believe in.

You can find more information about the walkout on the EGRHS National School Walkout Facebook page,” Plumstead said.

Plumstead hopes that this walkout will be more powerful than ever.

“Teenagers have a voice too and this walkout will help those teenagers who want to speak their mind to do so,” said Plumstead. He added that he hopes enough students participate to get the point across to our legislatures.

Students want policy and change

The nation’s most recent tragedy in Florida has left the country devastated and students everywhere motivated. There have already been five serious school shootings in 2018 and the victims of these tragedies are not satisfied with thoughts and prayers, the focus is on legislation. To protest the current state of guns in our country and advocate for new legislation, students across the country are planning walkouts in attempts to make their voices heard in Washington. During these times of protest, students are left to decide their stance on societal issues, and school districts are left to decide their stance on the 1st amendment rights of their students.

School districts in Arizona and Texas among others have announced that any and all students that participate in this protest will be suspended, while other schools plan to issue tardies or absences to protesters under the idea that it would be a disruption to a learning environment.

Here at East, Principal Craig Weigel has announced that there is currently no disciplinary action planned for students wishing to participate on March 14 at 10 AM.

“District leadership is aware of students’ desire to participate in the walkout,” Weigel said. “We are actively working on ways to support students to make it even safer and educational, as well as minimizing the disruption to the school day. I respect the students’ right to connect and feel safe, and if protesting helps them feel safe, we support that. We will respect all students rights, whether they choose to participate or not.”

The issue of free speech in schools has been heavily debated throughout history. The question of whether or not a certain protest in school disrupts the learning environment is one that is impossible to provide a definite answer. There are, however, a few landmark court cases that provide groundwork to talk about these issues. In December of 1965, the supreme court decided in favor of a group of students using their first amendment rights to peacefully protest in the case Tinker v Des Moines, a case that is still of immense importance 50 years later.

Safety at school is something that the district does not take lightly.

This decision is not final, as there is still much to discussed, but as of now the district is showing their support for the first amendment rights of our student body.

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