A day later than anticipated, but with no less enthusiasm, students from Malden Public Schools walked out of class on Thursday, March 15, to highlight the need for action in the wake of the tragic shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.
At about 10 a.m., students assembled in front of the entrance to the high school’s Jenkins Auditorium and heard speeches by fellow students. The walk-out was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but due to snow, the schools were closed. Thanks to social media, student organizers regrouped and held the walkout on Thursday.
Angela Soliz, a junior and one of the event organizers, told her fellow classmates that the NRA’s influence was in fact making them all unsafe. “What about the right to live?” she asked.
Meghan Yip, a senior and also one of the event organizers, said her life can be measured by the mass shooting at schools. She turned 18 on March 1; she noted that two weeks prior, while Malden was sharing Valentine wishes, 17 lives were lost at Stoneman Douglas.
The students also called on participants to write letters to elected officials, although there was some confusion about how this could be accomplished.
Following the speeches, organizers led a march around the high school in honor of the Parkland victims. For some students, this was a pivotal moment as one student organizer told a Neighborhood View reporter that, “It was the first time for any of us speaking up for our civil rights. It’s something we’ll always remember.”
Another student organizer, Birukti Tsige, linked the action to what she is learning in class, saying, “We learn a lot about protests and marches and walk outs in our history books. No one realizes how scary it is to ask people to do it with you. This is a first step.”
The walk-out was supported in a letter signed by both John Oteri, the superintendent of Malden Public Schools, and Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, which stated that students who participated would not be penalized or disciplined. The letter also declared that “It is often the goal of every educational district to prepare students for civic and social engagement.”
The letter also singled out students nationwide for praise, saying, “After every school shooting, political and educational leaders as well as parents pledge that ‘things will change and this will never happen again.’ This time, with students taking the lead, we are actually starting to see some substantive change.”
One student told Neighborhood View that the walk-out attracted two counter-protestors with signs about the Second Amendment, but that they were permitted to express their opinions freely. “We can have these conversations without being outraged,” she said, noting that the counter-protesters were friends of hers.