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What you need to know for 03/20/2018

What local students think of nationwide walk-out to protest gun violence

What local students think of nationwide walk-out to protest gun violence

'It shouldn’t keep on happening. It’s kids our age who are losing their lives'
What local students think of nationwide walk-out to protest gun violence
Clockwise: Trevor Luciani, 17, Kathy Tran, 17, Alyssa Harrynanan, 17, Destiny Ferbec-Peters, 17, and Maazin Ahmed, 17.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

CAPITAL REGION — Students from local school districts, including Schenectady, are getting together to figure out what they can do to fight against gun violence in schools, with some considering participating in a walk-out in March aimed at raising awareness of the issue.

On March 14, students around the country are planning to walk out of classes at 10 a.m. for 15 to 17 minutes. The March 14 walk-out was organized by the youth branch of the Women’s March.

Students from Parkland, Florida, are organizing their own event to be held on March 24 in Washington, D.C., called the “March for Our Lives.” Another nationwide walk-out will be held on April 20 to acknowledge the 19th anniversary of the Columbine mass shooting, during which 12 students were killed by two students.

The March walk-outs are a response to a school shooting that occured on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The shooting resulted in the deaths of 17 people, many of whom were students.

Since the shooting, students have become some of the loudest voices advocating for stricter gun control laws in the country, and have take to social media platforms to express their anger and grief over the violence in Florida.

Trevor Luciani and Maazin Ahmed, both 17-year-old seniors at Schenectady High School, described the state of shock that students in the district were in after learning about the massacre in Florida.

“It’s a surreal moment,” Luciani said, adding that despite the fact that high school students in the district participated in an active shooter drill after the shooting, it’s tough to truly be ready to handle such an event.

“You’re never prepared,” he said.

“It keeps happening,” Ahmed added of the shootings. “It shouldn’t keep on happening. It’s kids our age who are losing their lives.”

Luciani and Ahmed weren’t aware of the walk-outs until a teacher brought it to their attention, but they both feel that student-led advocacy would be an effective way to keep people’s attention on the issue.

Ahmed said that walk-outs could bring positive attention to the problem and cut through the constant discouraging media coverage that follows school shootings. 

“Students saying something about it, because it’s happening to students, will help,” he said.

Luciani added that stopping gun violence shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

“Before we’re Democrats and Republicans, we’re Americans,” he said. “We’re stronger when we work together.”

Students at Saratoga Springs High School might also take part. Sara Zlotnick, vice president of the Young Democrats Club at the high school, wasn’t sure if the club was going to participate, but said the walk-out was definitely on the club’s radar.

“I know the Young Democrats Club will be discussing it at our next meeting, but I haven't heard anything beyond that,” she said.

Asma Bawla, a senior at Shaker High School in Latham who is organizing a walk-out at that school, said that her peers in school were horrified after learning about the Florida shooting. 

Students at Shaker were scared after seeing social media posts and video of the shooting, Bawla, 17, said, and she decided that the issue was too important just to tweet about.

“Seventeen people died. That is a big deal. We need to stand up and be doing something about it,” she said.

Asma Bawla, 17 of Shaker High School. (Provided)

During the walk-out, she said, students will leave their classrooms at 10 a.m. They will gather in the auditorium to remember the victims of the shooting, walk outside briefly, and then go back to their classrooms.

As of Monday afternoon, Bawla said that at least 50 students had expressed interest in the walk-out. Her goal is to have at least 100 people participate.

The walk-out, she added, isn’t just about passing stricter gun control, which she acknowledged is a highly divisive issue. Bawla’s main goal with the walk-out is to bring students together for the sake of taking a stand against gun violence, and to help them find avenues for making their voices heard, such as writing letters to their elected officials or calling their offices.

“I don’t like gun violence. I don’t like that 17 people died because of it,” she said. “You can make a difference. You just have to take initiative. It doesn’t take a degree in political science to make a difference.”

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