Students at Sherwood High walkout, counter-demonstrate
About 50 Sherwood High School students participated in a walkout against school violence and in support of gun control legislation on Wednesday, March 14.
The walkout, held during lunch period so that students would not face an absence or penalty, was in conjunction with school walkouts happening across the region, state and country. It was held one month after a school shooting in Parkland, Fla. left 17 people dead.
Sherwood High's walkout was planned by senior Matthew Schantin, who also helped organize the school walkout in response to President Donald Trump's inauguration last year.
March 14 fell on finals week for Sherwood High, but Schantin and his friends worked with the administration to have the lunch period moved to 10 a.m., the time when students across the country planned to demonstrate.
"They (the school administration) wanted to figure out what our plan was, and they made an effort to put cones out for the bus lane, so we wouldn't have any cars driving by right in front of us," he said. "They were very helpful in terms of keeping everything contained, and it was really great to have that help."
The protest, which Schantin described as being "more a vigil than a walkout" began with a 17-minute moment of silence — one minute for each of the Parkland victims. Schantin and his fellow demonstrators then spent a few minutes speaking about the need for more gun control legislation.
When asked what he hoped the outcome of the national walkouts would be, Schantin answered that he would "just really like for people to stop sending thoughts and prayers, and people to start pushing through different regulations that we all agree need to be checked."
"I'd really like to inspire for this time for people to act on sensible gun regulation, and trying to enact some solutions to problems," he added.
Among the reforms Schantin sees as possibilities: universal background checks for all potential gun owners; closing of loopholes that make it easier to buy guns without background checks at gun shows and online; and the ban of bump stocks, which turn semi-automatic rifles into automatic ones.
He'd like to see assault rifles like AR-15s banned as well, though he said that might be more difficult to achieve.
"There was an assault rifle ban at one point, and I think we need to start looking at what went wrong with that, and why we can't put some of those kind of protections back in place," he said.
The walkout was controversial among Sherwood residents, with many taking to social media to suggest that instead of walking out, students should "walk up" to ostracized classmates and offer them support and friendship, so that those troubled students would not need to turn to violence.
Some community members were dubious of the protestors' true motives.
"Good excuse to skip out of class!!" read one comment on the Gazette's Facebook page. "Take full advantage."
"This was during a lunchtime," was Schantin's response to critical comments. "We didn't interrupt any learning. And we were making a statement that it's become even more difficult to stay in a learning environment with schools across the country being turned into, essentially, shooting ranges."
During the Sherwood High walkout, some students counter-demonstrated by driving their cars and trucks, outfitted with "Don't Tread on Me" and American flags, and honking and yelling during the moment of silence.
"A lot of people were saying there were parents in the cars, so admin went over and tried to stop people from doing that," Schantin said.
A Gazette Facebook commenter shared a photo of the counter-protestors' trucks, and said that they "are against gun violence but also strongly support the Second Amendment."
Sherwood High School has a population of about 1,600 students, meaning that most students did not participate in the walkout or the counter-demonstration.
"It wasn't a huge turnout," Schantin said, "but it was pretty decent for a finals day during lunch."