Anne Arundel County students join National School Walkout

By Rachel Heller

Photo courtesy of Alison Edwards

One month after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, students across Anne Arundel County joined the nation in the March 14 National School Walkout.

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Students honor Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims in Arundel’s “walk-in.” (Photo courtesy of Kierstyn Laird)

Arundel’s Student Leadership class and Wellness club showed solidarity with the 17 students and staff lost in the shooting by organizing an alternative to a walkout. Students participated in a “walk-in” to the school’s courtyard. In other Anne Arundel high schools, including Northeast, Broadneck, Old Mill, Annapolis, and Severna Park, students walked outside the schools to honor the victims and advocate for gun control.

At Northeast high school, senior Tabitha Crowe encouraged students to participate in a walkout, not sponsored by the school, originally to take place in the school’s main lobby. Crowe asked students to wear orange or make posters.

“I just felt like I needed to do something because I was so upset,” Crowe said. “We’ve had threats made towards our school before, and I wanted myself and students to be able to express their right to feel safe in school.”

Northeast senior Tabitha Crowe participates in a walkout. (Photo courtesy of Tabitha Crowe)

In November of last year, a Snapchat post circulated with the caption “Shooting up Northeast tomorrow.” Then, in February of this year, another threatening Snapchat post circulated, promising a mass shooting at the school during lunch. The post specifically targeted black students.

On the day of the walkout, Northeast held a 30 minute assembly in the gym at 10 a.m. Every minute for 17 minutes, a student said a name of one of the 17 lives lost in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. Afterwards, they held a moment of silence.

Crowe and five other students hoping to participate in a walkout did not attend the assembly, as they were told by administration that they weren’t allowed to bring up politics. According to Crowe, Principal Jason Williams made an announcement the day before, saying, “Politics only separate us.”

The walkout students tried to sit in the main lobby, but a counselor told them that they had to either move back to the gym, or to the cafeteria. The students refused, and instead walked out the front door to the flagpole, where they sat with their signs for 30 minutes. At least two signs read, “Protect kids not guns!”

Northeast students participate in a walkout. (Photo courtesy of Tabitha Crowe)

Multiple cars pulled up to the school to tell the students thank you, and that they appreciate what the students are doing. More students joined the walkout as time passed.

Hope Burke, a junior who participated in the walkout, added that “there’s not enough representation of students actually as students and not statistics.”

“I appreciate the measures my school went through to honor the victims, but I’m very disappointed that they tried to take away from a very important conversation about gun control,” Crowe said. “Thoughts and prayers are respectful, but will do nothing to stop this from happening again.”

Broadneck’s Equity Team, an organization of students helping the community, planned their school’s walkout. The walkout began at 9:50 a.m. with a large amount of students leaving their classrooms and walking outside of the school’s main entrance, staying there for 17 minutes. The Equity Team gave speeches centered around the shooting and the significance of the walkout.

One student’s speech said, “When our leaders act as children and our children act as leaders, we say enough.”

Broadneck students hold up photos of Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting victims. (Photo courtesy of Alina Hasan)

A few students held up pictures of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims. Each minute, the students said one of the names of the victims.

Broadneck junior Alina Hasan, along with her friends, agreed that the walkout was overall impactful. Hasan is thankful to have a strong support system between the students at her school, and along with the students across the country.

Eight days before the walkout, Anne Arundel police charged a Broadneck freshman with threatening a shooting at the school. This marks the second gun threat made against the school so far this year.

Broadneck student gives a speech during the walkout. (Photo courtesy of Alina Hasan)

“Gun control should be taken seriously,” Hasan said. “Not a full eradication of guns, as some believe, but instead stricter regulations that ensure further safety.

At Old Mill, the morning of March 14 began with 17 seconds of silence on the announcements for the 17 lives lost.

While the school suggested that students step out of class and meet in the cafeteria, when 10 a.m. arrived, some students walked out of the school instead and laid on the ground.

In the cafeteria, two banners could be found. On the banners, Old Mill students wrote messages to the students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, with numerous messages of “Stay strong,” and, “Never again.” The banners will be sent to the school.

A banner found in Old Mill’s cafeteria. (Photo courtesy of Devin Kaestner)

Music teacher Brendon Mizener encouraged students to register to vote. “I think it’s important for students to have their voices heard,” he said.

“All of my love goes out to Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” Devin Kaestner, a junior, said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I hope someday all the violence will stop.”

Jane Bodor, an Annapolis sophomore, hoped to organize a walkout at her school. Prior to March 14, she joined a few other students in a meeting with Principal Sue Chittim to discuss how to participate in a walkout in a safe, organized manner. Walking out of class to the gym seemed to be the best compromise the students and the principal could reach.

On the day of the National School Walkout, at 10 a.m., two walkouts took place. One was the planned indoor walkout, and another was a walkout to the outside of the school.

Annapolis students participate in a walkout. (Photo courtesy of Jane Bodor)

The students outside started chanting, and someone said the names of the 17 lives lost. “I, for one, am very proud of the fact that people still decided to do what they believe in,” Bodor said.

In the gym, two people from each grade level gave a speech. One student’s speech said, “Yes, I’m missing 17 minutes of school, because 17 people are missing the rest of their lives.”

Bodor also gave a speech. In her speech, she discussed how she feels moving forward after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting: “That anger, frustration, and sadness that I felt not long ago, is turning into motivation and hope to use my voice,” she said.

Pin sold at Severna Park. (Photo courtesy of Alena Carhart)

At Severna Park, the school created an advisory lesson to take place around 8:30 a.m., as opposed to a walkout. The advisory lesson included a moment of silence, where the names and ages of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting victims were read aloud. Students participated in various activities, including coming up with 17 random acts of kindness. The school also sold “17” pins, with the money from the pins going towards the family members of the victims.

According to Alena Carhart, a Severna Park senior, students were told by the school that unexcused absences would be given if they participated in a walkout. Students involved in the school musical, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival,” would not be able to participate in the production if they took part in a walkout.

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Severna Park student holds a sign during walkout. (Photo courtesy of Alison Edwards)

Carhart, the director of the musical, did not walk outside of the school for this reason, but added that she’s happy with the action that the school has taken to bring attention to gun violence.

At 10 a.m., around 75 students met in the lobby and walked outside. Most wore orange and some held signs.

One of the students who planned the walkout is freshman Amelia Major. She noted that people die everyday because of guns, some people younger than her.

“We are a so-called first world country. We should not have to worry about our children being killed in Math,” she said. “Other students and I are standing up instead of getting shot down.”

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Severna park students participate in a walkout. (Photo courtesy of Alison Edwards)