Are walkouts a viable form of protest?

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A crowd of people lay on the football field for 17 minutes of silence signifying the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. (Alexandrianna De La Cerda)

By Tyler Kwon and Eden Ovadia

On March 14, exactly one month after the Parkland shooting, hundreds of thousands of students from New York to Los Angeles participated in a walkout meant to demonstrate solidarity with Parkland. More broadly, they signaled their disapproval of the American government’s failure to protect public safety.
Here at GHC, we played a part in the national picture, too. However, instead of advocating for gun control with a walkout, GHC’s demonstration was meant to call for an end to school violence, and entailed a specially extended 17-minute nutrition during which hundreds of students and staff lay on the field, spelling “#ENOUGH” with their bodies, along with a series of workshops and booths on the quad.
Although many members of the Granada community believe that decisive action must be taken to prevent school shootings, many disagreed on whether a walkout was an appropriate and effective means to change.

Yes, they are

I stand by our right to participate in school walkouts as a demonstration of solidarity and outrage. Our age should not limit us from engaging in important discourse regarding gun control, especially when those conversations will have direct impacts on the safety of our generation and generations to come.
Initially, I wasn’t sure that I was supportive of a walkout. When some of my friends mentioned that they were disruptive, and would not offer the most direct route for change, I agreed.
However, I’ve come to learn that protests, at their core, are supposed to be disruptive. They interrupt classes and block roadways in order to bring important, yet ignored issues to the forefront of people’s minds. If they mean sacrificing convenience or interrupting our daily routines, so be it; the deaths of innocent people and the endangerment of our future are worth much more.
Additionally, protests like walkouts are not mere one-off events; historically, they have acted as valuable starting points for discourse and change. The Civil Rights Movement and #MeToo campaign serve as testaments to this fact.
When the flashing lights of a fire alarm, or even a knock on the door, can make us fear that a school shooting is about to occur, we deserve the right to speak up and be angry about the state of our country and its senseless approach to gun control. The victims of Parkland also deserve allies in their grief and their advocacy, weights much too burdensome for one school alone to bear.
GHC’s alternatives to the walkout, a 17-minute long demonstration and many opportunities for student learning and discourse, were very successful in fulfilling some of these needs. However, a small part of me also wishes that the school hadn’t organized events for March 14.
I’m enormously proud of my peers for taking part in the events, and am grateful that the administration ensured student leadership, but that day was meant to be one of defiance, not compliance. I believe that it would have been much more meaningful and empowering to students had we participated in a walkout, in spite of the consequences, and under our own guidance alone.
However, the importance of our method of communication pales in comparison to the importance of the message we sought to share. Laying on our backs, just like the victims of Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Columbine, members of the GHC community said “enough” to senseless massacres, the shed tears of best friends and parents.
Should the need for students to protest arise again, though, I would hope that they take it upon themselves to embody the same spirit that those who got to participate in the walkout did: one of self-empowerment, bold defiance, and compassion in the fight for something they believe in, and that our lives depend on us.

No, they are not

Protesting by participating in walkouts disrupts the learning environment, puts students in unsafe situations, and is not nearly as effective as other forms of protesting.
One of the biggest issues of walking out of schools is that the staff of the school is unable to be responsible for the lives of the students once they leave the school campus.
Parents let their children go to school so that they can learn in a safe environment. They entrust the safety of their children to the teachers and staff of the campus.
But when students are no longer in the safe zone on campus, administrators, school police officers, and even teachers are unable to be responsible for them and their safety.
Additionally, walking out prevents teachers from teaching the necessary curriculum. It is particularly distracting for other classmates when a student leaves in the middle of a lesson in order to exit school grounds unsupervised.
When it comes to protesting gun legislation, there is no reason for the students to punish their peers and teachers. These people are protesting state legislators not the school, so a walkout from school grounds is illogical.
On March 14, GHC refused to let students participate in a walkout.
Instead, it allowed them to plan a day of remembrance and workshops honoring those who lost their lives in the Parkland school shooting as well as educating people on mental health, stress management, self defense etc.
For this, GHC received negative backlash from some students, as they believed the school had taken away their rights to protest.
However, it is unjustified to blame the school in this case. GHC has a responsibility to protect a student’s safety which would have been challenged in a walkout scenario.
People must acknowledge the effort that the school has put into valuing a student’s right to protest by encouraging the activities on March 14, rather than claiming that the school prevented students from doing anything on that day.
Education is an important tool in battling gun violence as many people need to understand how to better impact their surroundings and care for themselves.
School should encourage and support students’ right to have their voices heard, but through more direct and productive means to change, such as voting and direct communication with local legislators.
Students need to be taught that the best way they can change their society is through direct action. Today’s youth should appeal to state legislators and tell the people in power exactly what this generation’s youth feels is necessary in order to be safe.
Walking out is not the answer as it simply causes more harm than good in disrupting a cherishable learning environment.
The power to make change is no longer only in the hands on the adults, but in those most dedicated to make a positive impact on the world.

Author: Tyler Kwon

Tyler Kwon is a 16 year old senior and Editor in Chief of the Plaid Press currently attending Granada Hills Charter High School.

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