Students across the nation are preparing to walk out of school Wednesday morning, so are students at Strasburg High. Students sitting in the same classroom are sitting on opposite sides of how to improve school safety.
Some are walking out Wednesday in support of gun control. Others are walking out in support of arming teachers. It’s a small and close-knit community at Strasburg High, but everyone doesn't see eye to eye and that's OK.
“That’s anywhere for you they have their different opinions,” said Brooke Miller
“By walking out it will get a conversation started,” said Matilyn Douglas.
Douglas helped organized a walkout in honor of the 17 victims killed in Parkland.
“I want people to understand young people do care. We don’t just care about friends social media, we care about the big issues. We want our voices to be heard," she said.
Her classmate Brooke Miller is doing the same but in a different way.
“My petition is to arm the staff and have kids sign that,” said Miller, who plans to hand this petition over to the school board.
Douglas and Miller are both juniors, walk the same hallways, are on student council together. And are both fighting to feel safer at school.
“We want something to be said for our side as well. We feel passionately about this as well,” said Miller.
For her, that includes training teachers on how to be armed.
“I don’t see how protecting kids with a sign is going to do anything. If people want to come in and hurt people they will come in and hurt people,” she said.
For Douglas, it’s the opposite.
“We are supporting more gun control or action in any way,” she said.
But Wednesday morning, students will walk out at the same time and then walk back to the high school they share.
“This shooting is different because young people are speaking up and getting involved,” said Douglas.
And that they can agree on.
“I respect their opinions fully and completely and I expect them to respect mine too,” Miller said.
“I think after we will be able to talk about what we accomplished,” Douglas said.
Originally kids were encouraged to sign a petition but the petition circulating Tuesday was pro-gun control. Then after talking to the principal, the second group of students is drafting their own petition Tuesday night in support of arming teachers.
Here is the full letter from their principal, Jeff Rasp, sent to parents:
Dear Strasburg High School parents and guardians:
In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, students across the country are organizing demonstrations and walkouts in protest of school violence. We are aware that some of our students may be planning to participate in walkouts at our school, including the National School Walkout Day planned for March 14. I wanted to give you information on how Strasburg High School will react to these potential protests.
At Strasburg High School we respect the right of our students to exercise their First Amendment rights and express their opinions. Engaging in peaceful protest and advocating for a cause can be a powerful learning experience for students. We also recognize that our students hold a diverse range of views and some may not want to participate in a walkout. It is our responsibility to ensure all students feel safe and respected, no matter their viewpoint.
I want you to know that our high school does not endorse or host walkouts, nor does the district endorse any particular viewpoint or advocacy group. Our main concern with any potential student walkout is safety. To that end, I have been working with student leaders to create a plan for students if they choose to participate. Our understanding is that the walkout planned for March 14 will start at 10am in circle drive and is expected to last 17 minutes, in honor of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting.
The walkout on March 14 is sponsored by the #Women’s March Youth Empower Organization. Here is a quote from their website for the reasons behind the protest:
Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets, and in our homes and places of worship. Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school. Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun legislation that addresses the public health crisis of gun violence.
If a student is willing to sign a petition in support of this message then there will be no consequence for walking out on 3/14. However, there will be a consequence if students walk out but do not participate in the protest. Please be advised that this walkout is designed solely to advocate for the cause of the #Women's March and students who do not support their ideas should remain in class. There are student leaders who will have petitions at school before and during the walkout for others to sign. Signing the petition indicates a student supports the cause of the #Women’s March.
Please note that Student Council is planning on sponsoring some positive actions for our school that do not involve walking out or protesting. We hope these ideas can be shared by all students in an effort to come together and support one another as a school and community.
Mrs. Miller and I recently met with all of the students at our school to discuss their reactions to the Florida shooting. We discussed ways we can ensure our students feel safe. We also stressed how important it is for them to seek help when they are struggling and to seek help for others who are struggling as well. We encourage you to talk with your student about these events and about important issues including school safety. We must work together – students, parents, guardians, teachers, staff, families and community members – to ensure that schools are safe places for students to learn, grow and develop into the leaders of tomorrow.
Jeff Rasp, Principal