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Young Democrats Leaders Organize Student Walk Out

Alexis Burch

Alexis Burch, Online Editor

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Holding a blue megaphone, sophomore Jewell Regan stood next to senior Lauren Wilson at 10 a.m. on the steps outside Building 13 in the school’s courtyard. Students, wearing orange, began to gather below in front of them to participate in the March 14 walk out that the two organized.

In organizing the event, Wilson, Young Democrats Club President, and Regan, YDC Secretary, wanted to respect the 17 students who died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. In addition, they wanted to show Arkansas government that students want legislation to provide more protection in schools and prevent more school shootings in the future.

“We knew that the walkout was going to be happening nationwide, and we knew that we wanted it to happen at Bryant High School, regardless of what people think is the general opinion about gun control,” Wilson said. “With all these school shootings, if you haven’t realized, people can be 16 and still die, and people don’t speak up about that. We wanted to gather attention and help out this nationwide movement.”

The Walk Out was not a school-sanctioned event. Wilson and Regan planned the event and then met with principal Dr. Todd Edwards beforehand.

Edwards said he had reservations because the school did not sanction the event.

“We are at our most vulnerable when we gather in larger groups outside, so my first concern was student safety,” Edwards said. “I was glad they came to me so we could keep [the event] organized and I could keep them supervised.”

Students were told to inform their teachers before the event if they planned on participating in the walk out.

Prior to the walk out, Edwards sent out an email to faculty saying that normal attendance policies were still in effect and that students would receive an unexcused tardy or absence from their class.

Still, students wanted to take part in the event.

“Whenever we gathered in our Young Democrats Club meeting, the students showed a big interest in wanting to participate, and they wanted their voice to be heard,” Regan said.

Sophomore Gretchen Bush sang the national anthem and sophomore Spencer Rhoden recited a poem written by a parent of one of the victims. Freshman Jack Clay, who helped Wilson and Regan brainstorm the event, gave a speech.

“For the first time, kids are able to speak out about their experiences, specifically in Parkland,” Clay said. “Kids are being empowered and trusted, because they’re the people who are at risk by inactive legislation. I hope [the crowd] took away that by letting people know, they can do something about [gun violence]. By letting people know that they have power to change a person’s mind, [it] really gives them a voice.”

Over 200 students participated in the walk out. Regan and Wilson, who expected only a small crowd, were shocked.

“I looked at Lauren and said, ‘What’s going on?’” Regan said. “We expected less than 100 people to come, expected people to be afraid to get absences. I was baffled. Whenever people started coming in and they were listening and paying attention, it was insane.”

At 10:20 a.m., when the walk out ended, Wilson and Regan provided postcards for students to write down their views and opinions about gun legislation. These postcards have been sent to Arkansas legislators.

For Wilson and Regan, the movement does not end here. They encourage students to call, mail and email their representatives, make social media posts to raise awareness, attend marches or talk to school administration to let them know that they want more safety precautions.

While she did not participate in the walk out, sophomore Ty’tiana Maize did attend the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. March 24. During spring break, she visited her dad, an Army recruiter who lives in Washington. She said that any student can feel the pain of a school shooting, so she wanted to go for herself and also her younger siblings who wanted to experience a march.

She said it was emotional, and she got to talk to other students in attendance.

“If one thing affects one person, it affects us all,” Maize said. “When we come together, it makes a much [greater] impact than people recognize.”

Jack Clay’s Speech:

  “Why We’re Here”

 

We all know why we’re here.  It’s why you took an absence in 3rd period, after all.  A month ago, on the day of love, 17 lives were taken out of hate.  And that’s why we’re here- to stand in solidarity with their families and to carry on their memories by crusading against the administration, the state of Arkansas, and the United States Government as a whole.  We are telling our teachers, our administrators, and our lawmakers that we’d rather have an absence from 3rd period than a permanent absence at the hands of a shooter. The kids and teachers in Parkland didn’t get that choice.  But, on the same token, the survivors of the shooting do. They have worked tirelessly to promote their views, as well as their experiences at the barrel of an AR-15, and they have made change. Now, it’s our turn. For too long, we’ve spiraled down this path where a shooter will kill children, we will send our thoughts and prayers, we will talk about sending more than thoughts and prayers, and then we forget about it until the next massacre.  And that’s why we’re here, to break routine. Making an Instagram post only goes so far. But by sacrificing an absence, maybe even some friends, we are creating a physical presence and demanding that something be done to make us feel safe. Some of those higher-ups, especially lawmakers, do not believe in change. But on all accounts, the recent shootings have changed America.  If it hadn’t, why would we be here?  So it starts here. Change starts with us.  But it doesn’t end with us. After this walkout, return to class.  If curious students want to ask about it, tell them about the walkout.  After that, you can attend the numerous marches taking place in Little Rock very soon.  You can call Tom Cotton and John Boozman until they block your phone number. And then you can mail them your concern!  Talk to other Senators, if you feel the need to. But whatever you do, make change. Don’t let those 17 lives become just another excuse to cry and forget.  Because, as you all know, that is why we’re here: to reflect and change. Thank you.”

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