17 Minutes of Solidarity

National Walk Out in response to gun violence has prompted administrative and school-wide debate.

By Drew Cortopassi, Staff

In response to the overwhelming gun violence afflicting American schools and communities, Women’s March Youth EMPOWER has called for a National School Walkout. The 17-minute walk on March 14, 2018 is encouraged for students, teachers, administrators, and parents in order to both mourn the 17 lives lost at the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and to protest Congress’s inaction concerning the apparent urgency of gun control. The national movement has sparked a school-wide response at ZCHS, with both adamant supporters and detractors of the movement. This has necessitated administrative action on the logistics of the protest, which, in itself, has caused contention within the school.

At ZCHS, Les Femmes has spearheaded efforts to make the National Student Walk Out a school-wide movement. This afterschool club, dedicated to increasing student activism in society and making youth voices heard, has faced serious opposition to its actions. Both students and administration have taken it upon themselves to continually tear down the promotional flyers posted by the club.

Zionsville Community Schools’ administration detailed its intentions for handling the protest in a lengthy email to the community. The letter essentially explained that administration will not disallow students from participating in the walkout, if they choose to do so. In the opening of the correspondence, it states:

“The core mission of our schools is to educate, thus making sure our young people are well-informed enough to make choices, decisions, and formulate opinions about complex matters. Integrated into our teaching role is the obligation to be protest neutral and protect our students so they have a safe environment in which to learn.”

Emphasizing the importance of safety and neutrality, the administration affirms that its main importance is to allow students to make their own decisions. The letter also cites the Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, which states that students do not, “…shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

These principles prevent administration from abridging students of their First Amendment rights, however, they do not stop other students from aggressively opposing the walkout. Students that oppose the gun restriction laws that this movement hopes to promote are infuriated. Flyers have been torn down, crumpled, and even tossed into toilets.

Ultimately, this movement has accomplished an important development: it has created a school-wide conversation. Amidst the controversy of the walkout, at the end of the day, 17 students lost their lives in Parkland, Florida on February 14. Turning their deaths into a politicized excuse to start an argument is a crime against their memories. If not for anything else, the National Walkout is a way to mourn the loss of those children.