On March 14, students across the country walked out of their schools to protest the deadly school shootings that have taken the lives of so many U.S. schoolchildren. Participants promoted increased gun control, school safety measures and mental health services to protect students from further violence.
To view all photos, click here: School Walkout
Locally, students across Northeast Denver also led walkouts, each unique. Students from East High School and Denver School of the Arts made a brash mark as they left school and marched to the Capitol to protest. But quieter protests at Northfield High School and McAuliffe International School made powerful, moving statements.
Northfield High School
Northfield chose a similar approach—a silent remembrance of each victim through a 17-minute event, with the release of a biodegradable white balloon as each name was read out on a megaphone. The moving event was organized by Northfield students Ellie Clifford, Kate Stewart and Ava Motarjeme, who are passionate about their cause.
Clifford said she realized soon after hearing about walkout plans on news and social media that “it would be a great opportunity for us to do something that would really be heard and really have an impact on how our country views gun control and how students have a voice also.”
“[The walkout] is important to me because people are getting hurt because of guns and because of people that are allowed to have access to guns,” added Stewart. “Guns have become a tool for hunting people, and now the targets are children and people that should not be attacked.”
“The first school shooting should have been the last,” said Motarjeme. “Nothing ever changed in all these years since Columbine…nothing has been done to change laws or anything.”
Northfield social studies teacher Peter Wright, who has taught the history of protest in his freshman U.S. History class, linked the students’ protests to their education. “It’s really cool to see that that type of historical teaching is being borne out around the country…and with our students here,” said Wright.
An increased educational focus on deeply analyzing language is a factor in motivating the student activism, according to Wright. “I think a big focus in all levels of schooling has been asking kids to really analyze rhetoric and look at what it means or not,” said Wright. “I think that they are able to see in some political statements that what is being said isn’t exactly what is being meant. And they don’t buy it.”
Wright feels that the current tenor of national politics also plays a role in the students’ activism. “People in politics, particularly at the highest levels, seem to feel free to speak their minds and kids wonder, ‘Why can’t we do the same?’” he said.
At McAuliffe, eighth graders Izzy Carabetta, Stephanie Danahey and Elliott Guinness organized the protest at the Smiley Campus in Park Hill. Right after the Parkland school shootings in February, the students designed T-shirts that list the names of schools that have experienced shootings and the victims, with a message on the back about taking action (see below/right/left, etc.).
“We wanted to raise awareness on the topic of gun violence,” said Danahey, about their efforts. “I think people know about it when the event happens, but they don’t do anything about it afterwards,” added Carabetta. T-shirt sales have been booming, spiked by local TV news coverage, and all proceeds will benefit the Giffords Law Center because of its focus on law and policy relating to gun control, said Guinness.
For the March 14 event, the three students decided on a message of love and remembrance, honoring the victims with a silent walkout. The McAuliffe students who chose to participate formed a heart as they sat in the athletic fields behind the school. The student organizers read the names of the 17 Parkland victims each minute through the 17-minute walkout.
Despite a field of tweens, the only sounds to be heard were sniffles—from kids, teachers and a few parents—as they reflected on the students’ lives lost.
Words can have many connotations, and my choice of “brash” in this context draws from the third definition from dictionary.com, “energetic or highly spirited, especially in an irreverent way; zesty” or along the lines of Merriam-Webster.com’s third definition, “full of fresh, raw vitality; uninhibitedly energetic or demonstrative.” The student-led walk-outs, both locally and nationally, are marked by youthful audacity – certainly DSA middle school students of ages 11 or 12 leaving school and walking for miles to protest at the capital bespeaks a disregard for conventional norms or potential consequences – an irreverence and lack of inhibition that is captured in the word “brash.” I hope that readers can discern from the generally admiring tone of the article that this was the connotation intended by use of “brash” in this context, and not that it was impudent or overbearing. Google “brash protest” and you will see that it has historically been used in a positive fashion to praise audacious, energetic uprisings…
But I appreciate the opportunity to consider this and to clarify my intentions in that word choice. I can understand how you could interpret it that way and I in no way meant to impugn the power or impact of their bold choice to march to the Capitol that day. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this word choice.
I don’t want to sound displeased, but the fact that you state, “Students from East High School and Denver School of the Arts made a brash mark as they left school and marched to the Capitol to protest.” A brash mark you say? These students use their voices to protest the government for not letting them feel safe in an environment that should be kept safe. There is nothing wrong with what Northfield or McAuliffe did and they did it with dignity to honor those who left too soon. But, the students that went to the Capitol and used their voices to make a difference is no brash mark. The students have more rights to speak on this part because they’re afraid that they might be next. So I’m proud that they used their voices to speak their rights. Please take down that statement, because I think you executed that very wrong.