Walking out in solidarity
The front of West Linn High School was filled with an estimated 300-400 students Wednesday, March 14, during the student-led walkout to honor the Florida school shooting victims.
In the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, WLHS was one of 15 schools in which students participated in the national walkout at 10 a.m.
While the intent of the walkout — which lasted for 17 minutes — was to honor the 17 victims who lost their lives during the Florida shooting, it was also to promote discussion surrounding gun violence in schools and school safety.
"We had a discussion amongst our ASB/Leadership class about what we should base this walkout around, and we all decided that we should do our best to make it not political and focus our walkout around showing respect for the people who were killed in the Stoneman Douglas shooting; along with the students, teachers, and families who have to go on every day after the traumatic event," said Shaylee Hicks, WLHS senior and ASB president. She added she struggled when trying to make it clear the event would not be politically-driven. "There were a lot of people who kept assuming the walkout was all about anti-gun protesting. We advertised it by posting on social media and we also posted a Statement of Purpose to make it very clear what it was about."
Hicks and other students say the walkout proved successful.
Junior Philip Chan was surprised by the turnout and the fact that a bunch of teenagers stood quietly for 17 minutes.
"We paid our respects to the victims of violence and showed our community that we stand strong together. The silence was powerful," he said, adding that the walkout was a display of solidarity. "In that regard, I was impressed by how we all came together and organized ourselves. I personally hope this spurs political change too. Washington needs to get the memo: Enough is enough."
After the 17 minutes of silence, three students spoke about why the students walked out and what they were standing for.
"A lot of people were bowing their heads and I even saw a few people crying," said sophomore Kaleigh Henderson.
Hicks and the other speakers ended the walkout by thanking those who participated and encouraged the students to use their power to evoke change, adding that students all have a right to feel safe in school.
"I think it was important for students to participate in the walkout because it lets our voices be heard," Henderson said. "We are not scared little children. We will fight for our rights to safety and free speech, and we will stand for those who are denied those rights."