Weekly Feature

2018-03-08 / Front Page

OP High School students to take part in National School Walkout


Numerous students at Orchard Park High School are looking to send a message that senseless gun violence in schools must end and have joined numerous other school districts around the country taking part in the National School Walkout.

(See editorial on page four)

The moment of solidarity is being organized on a national level by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, which is asking students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in the walkout to protest a lack of action by Congress to address gun violence.

The walkout, scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 14, at the high school, will be 17 minutes of silent protest in remembrance of the 17 individuals who were killed during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.

Ninth-grader Ava Schaffer, one of four organizers of the student walkout, said that after the shooting took place, students wanted to become involved with the cause.

“We realized that we had to do something because just sitting there and doing nothing isn’t going to accomplish anything,” said Schaffer, who said students see similarities between Orchard Park and Parkland school districts due to their size.

As of press time, Schaffer said more than 100 students will participate in the walkout. The high school has around 1,600 students.

Students have done their part to get the word out about the walkout by creating a Twitter account, @OPWalkout, and an Instagram account, @opwalkout. Schaffer also created a text remind system to have students notify their friends of the walkout.

Schaffer said the other three organizers are trying to get as many people as they can to join them, adding that the number on March 14 will be more than 100 people.

She is also collecting signatures to put into a letter to state and congressional representatives about gun violence in schools.

“We hope to get their attention,” Schaffer said. “[So that] our representatives can see that more people than they think are behind the ideas for reform.”

The organization of the walkout has been completely student-driven, and there will be no disciplinary action taken against students who choose to leave for the 17-minute walkout, according to Superintendent Matthew McGarrity.

McGarrity said the high school administration has been working with the students and teachers in regard to the coordination of the walkout. McGarrity added that there will be school-planned opportunities for civic engagement.

“We want to support the students as far as their civic engagement, but we want to make sure that it’s safe and orderly,” McGarrity said.

McGarrity said the Orchard Park Police Department will also be informed and contacted about the event.

Taking part in the national conversation, Schaffer hopes her efforts along with her classmates’ can make a difference.

“It’s not necessarily about reforming or restricting guns or the Second Amendment; it’s about trying to raise awareness and make a change,” Schaffer said.

For more information on the walkout, visit the event’s Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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