On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 17 people were killed by a 19-year-old former student armed with a semiautomatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This attack, the 17th school shooting of the year, according to Everytown, has affected not only those involved but students across the country as well.
With the extreme prevalence of gun violence and school shootings in the US, many students are afraid of what could happen when they step on their own school grounds. “Before I left the house, my dad told me to not be the first one to leave if a fire alarm goes off,” said one Brentsville District High School senior in Nokesville, Virginia. Zoe Sampson, a junior at Brentsville, added, “I had a nightmare that we had a school shooting. I could wake up and tell myself it was just a dream, but there are people who cannot do that.”
With so many emotions following the attack, it is important to not keep them in. If you need help processing these events, talk to your friends, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors. And know that although the news is truly devastating and going to school may seem scary right now, this attack is being viewed as a turning point by many and an opportunity to invoke tremendous change.
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas have been turning their fear, confusion, and anger into action to help prevent future massacres. Their efforts began when they documented and posted videos of the shooting on the 14th, showing the true horrors to the rest of the world. While these videos are extremely unsettling—with students hiding from gunfire, police storming classrooms, and others fleeing to safety—they helped spark a more serious need for changes in gun control laws. These students, who have grown up in a media-centric world, have been maturely answering reporters’ questions, calling out congressional leaders, and using the event to create their own gun control movement.
Already there is widespread protest, with several walkouts and marches happening across the US. Students and families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas protested the capital in Tallahassee with tremendous support on February 21, and more teens stormed Washington, DC, the same day with hopes of effecting change.
On March 14, the Women’s March Youth EMPOWER group encouraged students and teachers to walk out of their schools at 10:00 am for 17 minutes—one minute for each of the victims in Parkland. Over 3,000 schools participated, according to EMPOWER. While there was some backlash, with some students receiving suspensions or detention for participating, there was an overwhelmingly positive response overall. It’s helpful to know that numerous colleges are not counting disciplinary action relating to social activism as a viable thing to hold against students in their admission decisions. The National Association for College Admission Counseling compiled a list of some of those colleges and universities that you can view here.
A nationwide protest, March for Our Lives, was held on March 24, and #NationalHighSchoolWalkout is being planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine Shooting, in protest of the lack of change in gun control laws since the attack almost two decades ago. In addition, other schools such as Patriot High School in Virginia have planned their own individual protests. If you want to plan one at your school, make sure to coordinate with your administration.