Written by Erin Lobner. Media by Kalynn Pierce
On Wednesday, Feb. 14, what should have been the end of a typical school day turned tragic for the community of Parkland, Florida.
Seventeen students and faculty members were shot and killed by former student Nikolas Cruz, after he reportedly pulled a fire alarm to draw them out of their classrooms. Upon hearing gunshots, students took shelter in classrooms or fled the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school grounds. Cruz, himself, dropped his rifle and exited the building, blending in with survivors of the attack. He was later apprehended and arrested by authorities, and any remaining students were evacuated from the building.
This event is considered the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. However, with less than two months passed in 2018, Parkland isn’t even the first attack of its kind this year. Marshall County High School, Kentucky, lost two students in a school shooting last month. And, while the exact number has been debated, some sources claim as many as 18 gun-related incidents have taken place on school grounds so far.
No matter what the actual count is, one thing is certain: it is too high.
The survivors of the Parkland school shooting have done something unique, though. They’ve taken action.
Students have taken to Twitter, Facebook, and news outlets to express their rage and grief and demand change from lawmakers. They sparked the #NeverAgain and #ItsTime movements, demanding gun reform. Twitter user and Marjory Stoneman Douglas student “kyra (@longlivekcx)” said, “We demand action. We demand reform.” Student Aly Sheehy expressed her grief and frustration in a poem entitled “Dear Mr. President.”
Senior Emma Gonzalez made a powerful speech at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Even as tears ran down her cheeks, she yelled into the microphone and demanded change. She called out the president for accepting large donations from the NRA, dividing the reported 30 million dollars he has received by the number of Americans killed by gun violence this year, and stated, “If you don’t do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you.”
At the end of Gonzalez’s speech, she tore down many pro-gun arguments:
Companies [are] trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn’t reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.”
Students across the nation are organizing national school walkouts on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, one of the earliest such attacks in the U.S. The walkouts are in protest of lax gun regulations and the continued occurrence of mass school shootings. March For Our Lives is also set to take place in Washington D.C. on March 24 to bring the issue to the capitol.
These debates place a group of Greenville University members in a unique position: student teachers. During the last semester of their college career, these students begin the transition to teaching careers, leading classrooms of students in elementary, junior high, or high schools.
However, student teachers are, as the title implies, still students. Just a few years older than students at Parkland, or even those in their classrooms, how do these future teachers cope with the anger and anxiety caused by these events?
Student teacher Donnie Cruse explains the school atmosphere: “Anytime a shooting situation like this occurs, there is a sense of unease from the student body and staff. Being a student teacher has shown me the fear and tension among the staff and administration.”
Cruse is not opposed to the idea of a national walkout, saying, “At this point, any protest that is kept peaceful should be promoted and supported.” In regards to the students’ responses as a whole, he added, “The responses of the students can be seen as a possible outlook of the political environment in the next few decades. These students went through a living nightmare and their experiences and stories may catalyze the formation of young politicians that focus on the safety of students over political benefits.”
After exploring accounts from the survivors of the Parkland shooting, it is nearly impossible to join with them in their fight for change and reform. However you feel about the students’ political stance, consider supporting the victims in their recovery.