SYRACUSE — Since the mass shooting leaving 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, there has been unrest, protesting, school walkouts by the thousands and marches are planned in many cities across the nation Saturday, March 24. Clearly, the concern about school safety, as well as gun control, has escalated to new heights.
Wawasee High School’s response was to organize what came to be termed “Warrior Walk-In” during Warrior Time beginning at approximately 10:20 a.m. today Friday, March 23. On a voluntary basis, students were allowed to come to the spectator gym and participate in a memorial for those killed and injured in Parkland. Many did come and nearly filled the lower level on the west end of the gym.
Students organized and led the walk-in. Cameron Rager, who along with Genevieve Cierpilowski, Makenna Sausaman and Lora Kuhaneck spoke, opened the event by telling the students “this is in no way political,” but instead was to focus on the Parkland students and staff who lost their lives. It was noted there have been 334 school shootings with 429 students and faculty members killed since the 1970s, though it is difficult to find accurate information.
During a PowerPoint presentation each name of the 17 killed in Florida was read and their photographs were shown on a projector screen. As their names were read, a Wawasee student or staff member representing each one walked out on the gym floor and then laid in a straight line.
The names of the 17 injured were also read and this time those representing them sat on the floor, also in a straight line separate from and next to the ones laying.
Those who sacrificed to protect others in some way in Parkland were also recognized and it was emphasized the lives of the students and their families would be forever changed.
Everyone was invited to stay and break up into small groups to ask questions and share concerns. Most left, but those who stayed talked with the four students leading the walk-in.
Several questions and concerns were shared, including more than once asking if there will be a school lockdown or any type of training to prepare for an active shooting situation. “Why does it take a school shooting for us to have something like this (walk-in)?” it was asked. Rager said there has not been a lockdown, but encouraged the students to share their concerns with administration.
He said “there is no way to stop every shooting, to be quite honest,” but things can be done to minimize the number of incidents. A few of the students said they would not know what to do if a shooter entered the high school, other than start running or throwing something at the shooter.
Students were encouraged to try to be a friend to those who may not have many or any friends and if they are especially concerned about someone they can report, anonymously, the name of that person to a guidance counselor. Confronting or reporting bullying was also brought up and those incidents should be addressed it was emphasized.
Several students also indicated they plan to participate in either the Fort Wayne or Goshen marches March 24.
The original intent of at least some of the students was to participate in the national school walkout March 14, but they were advised by Kim Nguyen, WHS principal, not to do so due to security and safety risks.