In mid March, thousands of students across the country walked out of their classes for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives of the students and faculty killed at the Parkland school shooting that happened on February 14, 2018.
But Upper Campus Head of School Craig Floyd took a different approach.
Instead of having a walkout where students would miss class, Mr. Floyd extended morning meeting to address the walkout and to educate the students on peaceful protests, societal issues, and the power of our generation.
“Today, I had the daily schedule altered so that we could gather during the time of a nationwide walkout to remember the lives lost during the Parkland High School shooting,” Mr. Floyd said. “I want to use this time as an educational opportunity to discuss the ideas of peaceful protests, the power young adults hold, and the idea of don’t be a follower until you know why something is happening.”
These students were walking to be the voice of the victims lost to gun violence, those who could no longer fight. They walked in great crowds with large signs and loud voices, demanding to be heard and demanding to see a change on gun laws in the United States.
On the morning of March 14, OVS students piled into the amphitheater to hear the usual morning announcements.
However, students didn’t make their way back to class after the last announcement was made. Instead, they listened to Mr. Floyd address the walk out that was going on across the country, and used the opportunity to discuss the power of youth protests rather than strictly talking about either, or both, sides of gun control.
Mr. Floyd first spoke about the history of civil disobedience, talking about how the most impactful youth protests have taken place in high schools and middle schools.
These students have been using their voice to make changes in the world, and because many students at OVS are not as versed in American politics, Mr. Floyd wanted to educate the students about learning for themselves and using their voice.
“I wanted to use this walk out as an opportunity to engage the student body in explaining peaceful protests, using your voices, and being prepared for upcoming elections,” said Mr. Floyd. “The point of the meeting was to make them realize that they do have a voice. That they can make change if they want to.”
The meeting Mr. Floyd held was a success, especially because many students went to their next block feeling like they learned something about themselves or about this country.
Junior Ivy Sun was one of the students who greatly benefited from the meeting and the information Mr. Floyd provided.
“I don’t usually pay attention to politics back home or here in America,” said Ivy. “But after that meeting, I began to understand the importance of free speech, especially because I realized not everyone around the world has that freedom.”
Despite the purpose of the meeting, some students who wanted to participate in the walkout found that the purpose of it was defeated because of the meeting.
Junior Kelly MacConnell felt that the walkout meant a lot to so many students and school should have had the meeting before or after the walkout so students could have participated with all the other schools.
Even if OVS is a school where students feel safe, the students should be aware of the fact other teenagers do not feel safe at their schools because of these shootings.
“Losing 17 minutes of an 80 minute block isn’t much compared to the students who’ve lost their lives,” Kelly said. “They will never be able to experience seventeen minutes of class again because of gun violence.”
The purpose of the meeting wasn’t to silence the students or prevent them from walking out though. Since Mr. Floyd was aware of the fact that only a few students would possibly be participating in the protest, he called the meeting instead so that every student was included and had the chance to learn about what was going on in the world.
“No one was against the students having a voice or peacefully protesting,” said Mr. Floyd. “Anyone could’ve stepped up and walked out of that meeting if they wanted to protest, and no one would’ve gotten in trouble. The problem was how to make it the most meaningful for students.”
In the end, Mr. Floyd hoped that students went to class after that meeting feeling empowered. When students leave OVS after graduation with the power to vote in the future elections, he wants them to take advantage of modern technology to do their own research and make their own voice for themselves.
However, March 14 was not the end to the protests against guns. It was only the beginning to the revolution against gun control. In fact, on March 24, students, kids, and adults alike walked through city streets internationally to march for their lives, including students at OVS.
Freshman Kiana Carlisle is an active protester who has been a part of the fight for gun control for a while. From wearing orange on March 14 as a symbol against gun violence, to always finding ways to talk with others and discuss the issue, she is helping create a world where people are not in constant fear of gun violence.
“Just two weeks ago while I was in Mammoth, my mom texted me and told me there was a shooting going on in the Thousand Oaks Mall,” said Kiana, adding that her mom was in the mall at the time. “She kept telling me that she loved me, and it was terrifying. She was fine afterwards, but no one should ever have to go through that.”
Kiana also attended the Los Angeles “March For Our Lives” protest, because in reality, gun violence is still a huge issue that everyone faces. While there are people still fighting for their guns, people are continuing to push through and fight even harder, especially young people.
“A lot of young people are really helping because everyone is posting about these protests, and it’s starting to really influence other people to get involved,” said Kiana. “These marches have been going on forever now, but they will only continue to grow.”