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WHS Student Leaders Present 17 Reasons to Change In an Emotionally Charged Program

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Today marks the one month anniversary of the tragic shooting that took the lives of seventeen students and faculty members on February 14th, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Students all over the country are organizing school walkouts to remember those who tragically lost their lives and to protest ideas of change to help reduce school violence.

Student leaders of Walkersville High School presented “17 Reasons for Change” today during the FLEX period for those who were interested in attending. Last week, members of WHS Lion’s Pride Publications seeked out members of the student body and asked one simple question, “If there were one thing you could do to end school violence, what would it be?”

Following their responses, student leaders and Principal Tracey Kibler created a composite list of 17 reasons for change that had been given to present today. Posters were created for each student attending/participating to sign to show their support for the reason they agree with.

After the posters have been signed, they will be sent to the Board of Education and Maryland lawmakers to let it be known that the following students of Walkersville High School want change to occur.

The program began with students holding posters of each Parkland victim scattered around the auditorium while a voice over narration from the survivors played while students entered the location.

After student’s arrival, those scattered lined up on the center stage. Student leader and senior Susanna Chen opened the program, “1999: 15, Columbine, 2007: 33, Virginia Tech, 2012: 28, Sandy Hook, 2016: 58, Orlando, 2017: 59, Las Vegas, 2018: 17, Parkland. Four weeks ago, I was at a robotics meeting. There, I found out seventeen people were slaughtered. I would like to say that on February 14th I was angry. Yet, like many of you, I saw it as just another senseless but common tragedy, a pattern we have come to accept. We have become numb to these murders.”

“These numbers that we are told: 17, 59, 33, are no longer people, but simply another cold statistic to add to an ever growing number of lost lives. It absolutely scares me that we can accept this as another common occurrence. As if the constant threat of a shooting is just another part of being a student. We cannot let this continue. I refuse to live in a world where we accept murder as the norm. I refuse to live in a world where our schools become graveyards for our students. We must stay vigilant. Be enraged, upset, and frustrated,” Chen stated.

She continued, “But, transform that anger into action. The enemy of progress is apathy. Go out and vote. Tell your politicians that you demand change. It is our duty to those seventeen people to act. Although the change we make here may seem small, progress is not a single uphill climb but a wave which grows with action and starts with a single ripple. A ripple that starts here. And if nothing, I believe in the power of our voice to confront those in power resistant to change. And so, we gather here today to remember these students. Like us, they had dreams of attending college and becoming professional athletes, dancers, or therapists. But their lives were cut short and their dreams along with them. We must make the change so that there will never again be another seventeen.”

Following Chen’s statement, senior Kathy Krantz and junior Cian Pickron took turns describing each of the victims of the Parkland shooting while their photos appeared on a screen behind them and followed it by a brief moment of silence.

After, statements were read by seniors Eikaiva Boyer and Ashley Terry explaining the reasons and the plan with the posters. Each reason was read aloud for students to hear. The reasons are as follows:

  1. Increased school security and funding.
  2. More school resource officers.
  3. Improved gun laws.
  4. Thorough emergency training for teachers and staff.
  5. Restricting civilian purchase of assault and automatic weapons.
  6. More school counselors.
  7. Frequent emergency drills for better preparedness.
  8. Removing violent students with mandatory interventions before return.
  9. Improving parent education and accountability.
  10. Effective anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying programs.
  11. Reducing class sizes to help build strong student-teacher relationships.
  12. Harsher punishments for violent crimes.
  13. More therapists and psychologists in school(s).
  14. Speaking up! See something, say something.
  15. Regular psychological evaluations for those who bear firearms.
  16. Reducing “copycat” incidents through limited media coverage.
  17. Being united, supportive, and kind.

Student Member of the Board and senior Will Anderson concluded the section of the program with a brief statement.

Kibler stated via Find Out First on Tuesday, March 13th that, “Schools and students have been tragically impacted by the horrific acts of violence on educational campuses the past two decades. The increased occurrences have heightened the awareness and concern of students all over the country. High school students especially have a growing sense of urgency because they have mature developed minds with ideas and opinions intended for change.”

Senior Charlie Greene said, “When I was standing on stage I got so choked up from hearing all the names and what kinds of people they were because they aren’t just statistics. They are people and I love that the admin helped us show that.”

“I’m really glad I came,” said senior Maddie Ropp.

Senior Addie Robert expressed, “Being up on that stage representing one of the lives that was lost was honestly really moving and it made me extremely emotional. I was so surprised and happy at how many people left FLEX to come participate in this.”

Kibler said,“This was more meaningful than simply walking out of the building. It gave students an opportunity to evaluate how they themselves can accompany change, and that is crucial.”

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