Quarta-feira’, 16/1/2019 | : : UTC-5
The Reflection

Gull Lake shows unity in wake of Parkland Shootings

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On February 14, 2018 a mass shooting occurred at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and they shooting took the lives of 14 students and three teachers.

Almost immediately afterwards, students from the school took initiative, and decided to speak out against gun violence and promote school safety, starting a movement of their own for stricter gun laws. Since the shooting, the leaders of these gun violence protests have been featured on a multitude of television platforms, as well as being able to meet current president, Donald Trump.

The students also organized protests and walkouts, with a protest called “March for Our Lives” being held in Washington D.C. on March 24, while also organizing a school wide walkout on March 14. Among many other schools, Gull Lake was one that participated on the day to promote safe schools.

Photo of Officer Adam standing next to two students trying to cover up from the cold. Photo by Samuel Tilbury

The school’s walkout was planned by members of the student senate, among those is junior Kaleigh Belz. Belz, among other members of senate, approached the school board with the idea of a peaceful walkout.

When asked why she believed the school should participate, Kaleigh said that “initially it began just as an interest in what the school had to say, and their reactions to the Parkland shooting. I think this is an issue that our generation is being faced with, and I wanted to be able to provide that support and confidence for the students.”

“I believe deeply in listening to students and working with students, so my instinct was to work with kids anyway to allow it,” principal Don Eastman said. “I also received advice from central office, school attorneys, Association of Secondary School Principals, all advised allowing student to exercise voice if it was possible to keep it safe and if it was not disruptive.”

Principal Don Eastman during the Walkout on March 14. Photo by Samuel Tlbury

Belz says that, when planning the march “the political stance was a big issue, being a school and advocating as a representative of the school, we couldn’t represent what we were doing as taking a side in any direction, despite any personal opinions,” she said. “Additionally, there were concerns that students wouldn’t participate in the event; however, we decided that the overall show of support would be better than none.”

When asked if they were worried that people may not take the march seriously, Belz stated that they knew some people would take the stance as a joke, but said she hoped people come to realize how serious the issue is and act accordingly.

Belz explained more about the process, and overall importance of the walk out.

If someone didn’t step in order to coordinate information across schools and in their own schools-the idea of a national walkout would only ever be an idea. – Kaleigh Belz

“For me, a lot of it was about being able to provide students a voice on these issues,” she said, “and providing them the understanding and opportunity to act. I took the initiative to poll Student Senate and get their responses on what they thought we as a school should do, and during that time, brought in a couple more people who presented interest to form a committee of sorts. We then took those responses and ideas to administration in order to really begin the overall process. We wanted to emphasize that this was something that the school would support, and use it as a launching board for students to talk about their concerns on school safety as well.”

Eastman said it’s important that to listen to students.

“I also think the safety issue needs more awareness and possibly improvement,” he said.

Belz said she thought this tragedy hit home and differed from other was because they were high schoolers too.

“Part of the difference is not only the amount of victims but the age of the victims. Being a high school shooting, the students themselves have the understanding and knowledge of what is happening, and the impact of why it happened,” she said. “Before that the largest school shootings in the United States were Sandy Hook Elementary, the VA tech shooting, and the Bath School disaster. Columbine sparked national outrage; however, I think with the evolution of social media, the response to it was better able to be nationwide especially for students, whose most common form of communication is social media.”

Photo of students in a warm embrace during the Walkout. Photo by Samuel Tilbury

I think it was more uniting and helpful to create awareness than anything. – Don Eastman

The day of the walk, an estimated amount of about 150 students went outside to participate in the walkout. The students and teachers participating all met in the bus loop, with jackets and gloves on most.

The walkout started with a speech from principal Eastman, signifying the importance of the march and what it will consist of. A sense of melancholy and unity took over the school as the long silence for the victims of the shooting progressed.

The majority of the students outside were silent. Some, students huddled together in unification over the events, while others just tried to stay warm over the cold. About 3 police cars were stationed at different distances from the bus loop: one right next to the students, one a hundred feet away and another near the intersection that leads to the Ryan Intermediate.

I think that tragedy almost always sparks initiative. Student protests have been key proponents of the passing of laws in the past, and they will continue to be. Anytime people take a stance as a nation is something to admire, and the Parkland students helped begin that. – Kaleigh Belz

Some students who didn’t dress appropriately for the event has shirts tucked over their heads, and blankets to protect them from the wind that was calmly blowing over the vast parking lot. After the allotted amount of time was up, Eastman thanked the students for participating, and many rushed inside to relieve themselves of the harsh temperatures.

When asked what message Eastman would like to give to the student body on this event and the issues concerned with it, he said: “We need to do all that we can, little things. Reporting dangerous or suspicious things we hear to administration or using fast 50, or ok2say. This is very important. Relationships with administration that foster and improve communications is critical.”

Samuel Tilbury

Hi, my name is Sam Tilbury and I'm a Senior at Gull Lake High School and the entertainment/opinion editor for the school's newspaper. I'm the only student in our grade that's been apart of Newspaper all three years, and I'm very excited to start my final year on staff! I really enjoy writing reviews, and voicing my opinions.


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