LAKE FOREST/LAKE BLUFF — A quartet of Lake Bluff Middle School seventh graders took their feelings about the shooting that left 17 dead February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., to the Lake Bluff District 65 Board of Education.
Katherine Johnson, Kay Clifford, Elin Hood and Tally Feingold told board members why they plan to join middle and high school students across the country walking out of class at 10 a.m. March 14 to send a message about school shootings to their elders.
“We are tired of watching our country crumble before our eyes,” said Johnson. “By participating in this nationwide walkout it will allow us to share our opinions that otherwise may not be heard.”
Students who choose to participate in National School Walkout at both Lake Bluff Middle School and Deer Path Middle School in Lake Forest will leave their buildings at 10 a.m. March 14 for 17 minutes to remember the Florida victims.
The national movement was started by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER in response to the February 14 shooting in Florida. It is an effort to get high school students across the country to walk out of class at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes.
Clifford made it clear youngsters as well as their elders have strong views about events of the past few weeks and want to share them. She does not want to see teachers armed as a remedy to preventing violence.
“We are facing serious problems that not just adults have an opinion on but many students like us have a strong opinion on as well,” said Clifford. “Our President (Donald) Trump says that teachers should have guns in their classrooms. (That) can make it easier for people to get a hold of it and people can get killed.”
Hood expressed fear for her safety and that of her schoolmates. She wants to walk out to make a statement about her feelings and what happened in Florida.
“A lot of students are scared what will happen and what will become of our school and our country,” said Hood. “We need to stand together in these 17 minutes and make a huge difference.”
Feingold said the walkout will be educational, complementing what she and her schoolmates would learn in class.
“Peaceful protest gives students who usually feel helpless the confidence to stand up for what they believe in,” said Feingold. “This could encourage them to be more positive overall and additionally give them insight and perspective into global issues we discuss in class.”
Administrators at both Deer Path Middle School and Lake Bluff Middle School stressed in emails sent to the school communities that students are free to leave their buildings to show their solidarity with students in Florida and across the country, or they may remain in class.
“I am not giving you permission to participate in a school walkout,” said Lake Bluff Principal Nate Blackmer in his email. “If you decide to exercise your First Amendment rights by walking out of the school building, I will not pursue disciplinary action as long as your actions do not infringe upon the rights of others or create an unsafe situation for you and others.”
Walkout To Last 17 Minutes
The walkout in Lake Bluff will last 17 minutes, representing 60 seconds for each victim of the Florida shooting. Blackmer said there are measures to ensure safety of everyone in the building and on campus. Class will remain in session during the walkout. Teachers not teaching a class during that period will join administrators supervising the youngsters.
At Deer Path, Principals Renee DeVore and Tom Cardamone said in an email to parents the walkout will last 17 minutes. There is no official school involvement but the students will be supervised for their safety. Students are to return to class after the walkout. Class will remain in session during the walkout.
District 67’s three elementary schools are also offering options, according to Anne Whipple, the district’s communications director. She said parents who want their children to participate can pick them up at school and remain with them outside for the duration of the event.
Whipple said parents can also keep their children at home during the observation and bring them to school when it is done. Regular classes will continue throughout the entire school day.
While the Lake Bluff students are outside their school, a group of adults will be across the street in Artesian Park at 10 a.m. to show solidarity with the students, according to Sandy Hart, who organized that event.
Students at Lake Forest High School also have a walkout planned at 10 a.m. March 14. Some will lock arms on the front lawn to show solidarity with the Stoneman Douglas victims while some seniors plan to walk to City Hall to vote. Click here to read more on the high school activities.