A banner created by Scripps Ranch High School Key Club is signed by students during the safety rally held on the campus March 14. (courtesy of Scripps Ranch High School)
Students speak about safety
Local students took part in a national movement in which youth across the country organized to voice their concerns and advocate for responsible change. On March 14, the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students united both to pay tribute to victims of the shooting and to push lawmakers to pass responsible gun legislation for student safety.
Two schools in Scripps Ranch organized staged “walk-ins,” holding on-campus rallies to give students a place to have their voices heard.
An email sent from Scripps Ranch High School (SRHS) on Monday, March 12, advised parents that the school would be conducting a safety week, which would include emergency drills and a school safety rally.
SRHS Principal Nicole DeWitt explained that on a monthly-basis, she meets with a student group called “My Student Summit” to discuss campus issues or other matters relevant to student life. At their last meeting, the students “brought up this idea [of a rally]. They had questions about the nationwide walkout in general and what they could do to try to organize something on campus,” she said.
Given the student interest in participating in the nationwide effort, while wishing to not be penalized, the SRHS administration determined that it would provide “a venue and a dedicated time on campus for students to participate,” DeWitt explained.
The school’s bell schedule was adjusted to accommodate the event, which took place after period three.
Student organizers arranged to have speakers at the event, created a banner signed by SRHS students to show support for the victims of the Parkland shooting, and also prepared feedback cards for classmates to write down their school safety concerns and suggestions.
Caroline Lawler, a senior at SRHS, explained that she was glad administrators were supportive of students’ desire to participate in the nationwide event.
“Unlike many other schools in America, [SRHS] created an outlet for students’ voices to be heard instead of punishing those who chose to walk out,” she said.
Students felt that the rally was worthwhile.
“All of the speeches were very good, and the speakers … [successfully] delivered the messages that they were trying to get across,” Lawler explained.
One student speaker “mentioned that we should not remove guns, just make them harder to obtain for people who should not own them. The audience was very into it and there was a bigger turnout than I expected, which I thought was really cool,” Lawler added.
Hana Helders, a freshman at SRHS, shared her enthusiasm.
“I think it’s awesome that teenagers are voicing their opinions and making themselves heard. It’s a very important change that we need right now,” she said.
At Marshall Middle School, students were allowed to attend a gathering that began at 10 a.m. in the C lunch court. A message from the administration emailed to parents in the afternoon estimated that about 300 students participated.
The schedule called for 17 minutes of silence once the students assembled — one symbolic minute for each life lost in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre. Most middle school students are unable to stand in silence for 17 minutes. Some were talking and others stood on tables to address the crowd, according to some students in attendance. Others made signs and held them during the event.
At first, the gathering was rather loud during the planned time of silence. That’s when seventh-grader Rosy Barba stood up and told the crowd to be silent.
“I don’t think they were really taking it that seriously, so I stood up on a table and I told everybody that we needed to be silent for the students who lost their lives,” Barba said, adding that another student then also called for silence. “I just thought that, okay, if we’re going to be out here, we seriously need to be silent. This isn’t some joke. It’s a serious matter.”
When asked how she had the initiative to attempt to silence the crowd, Barba credited her mother, Lucy Lidot.
“I guess my mom just wants me to be the best version of myself that I can be,” Barba said. “And I just really want to make a change in the world.”
Once the time of silence ended, some individuals, hesitant at first, began to rise and address the students. However, only a short amount of time remained.
“There were just so many people that gave such kind and respectful speeches,” said Isabella Davies, a seventh grader at Marshall. “I could tell by the way they were talking and their word choice that they sounded very passionate about this and they really wanted gun laws to be restricted.”
While Davies had hoped to say a few words to the crowd, she said it was simply too difficult since so many wanted to express themselves.
“I was planning on saying how it’s pretty scary to think students our age, younger and older, are discussing this, along with the fact that there are students our age that are scared to go to school because they are afraid a person with a gun will come and kill them,” Davies explained. “I feel it’s not right for people to be scared. These people who are with a gun and they shoot people, they have something up with their mind and that also leads me to believe that America needs to make mental health care more affordable and more available to those who want it or need it.”
Barba said that she was one of the students who was able to address the crowd.
“I think I said we really need to make a change in the world right now because the world is really divided at this time in our lives and we are the children that need to stand up if nobody else is doing it,” she said. “We need to understand that we aren’t just kids anymore. We need to really show people that we can do more than just sit around.”
Barba said she made a few signs in one of her classes and handed them out during the rally. She recalled that one sign said, “Protect your kids, not your guns.” The other said, “Guns aren’t living, but I am. Which one would you choose?”
Both Davies and Barba stated they are not afraid of going to school because they are confident the staff and administration at Marshall Middle School keeps the campus safe.
Both said they would feel very uncomfortable if teachers at their school were armed with guns to protect them, stating that they didn’t trust that sort of situation.
“We shouldn’t fight fire with fire,” Barba said.
“I think the best thing we can do is changing our gun laws,” she added, carefully stressing each point as if in deep thought. “Teachers shouldn’t even have guns in the first place. We shouldn’t be concerned with that. Our schools are supposed to be safe places where children can go to get an education, to grow up and, who knows, cure cancer or solve global warming. Yeah, teachers shouldn’t be armed like that. It’s not going to solve anything.”
Both students summed up their thoughts resulting from the issue at hand and the day’s events. Davies had a message for parents.
“Some people may think children appear to be oblivious to what’s happening. However, children — we’re very bright — and even if we don’t know exactly what’s going on, we have this instinct that something’s not right,” Davies said. “So, if you feel that you need to tell your child something bad is going on, and not to be afraid, go ahead and tell them because if they don’t know, they’re going to be even more afraid.”
Barba had some advice for people who might want to make a difference in the world.
“No matter who you think you are, no matter how young you are, no matter how old you are, you can really just get out there and make a change,” she stated. “I don’t want people to doubt themselves because it’s really not that hard. Just stand up and make your voice heard.”