Verona Students Walk Out To Honor Parkland Victims

By on March 15, 2018

vhs student walkoutOn Wednesday, March 14, Verona High School students walked out of school at 10 a.m. and observed 17 minutes of silence to mark the one-month anniversary of the shooting at  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Oarkland, Fla. that killed 17 students and teachers, and wounded 16 others. More than 200 students participated in the walkout, which took place along Sampson Drive.

Sophomores Chloe Mathewson and Ana Konrad-Parisi took turns announcing one victim’s name per minute, recognizing the reason the students were out there.  “Silence speaks volumes,” Mathewson said later Wednesday, “”It helps show that we are honoring the victims’ lives.”

The walkout was also an opportunity for students to share their views on gun violence. Some of the participating students carried posters with the word “Enough” or the hashtag “#enough”, which have been used to show support of laws to end gun violence. While they were getting ready for the walkout, the organizers had talked to other students about the need for stricter background checks on gun buyers and responsible gun ownership.

Mathewson and Konrad-Parisi said after the walkout that it could not have happened without the collaboration of many other students. There was a group chat with over 75 students from all grades at VHS who wanted to make a change, and they noted that some of the organizers, like Karen Andre, Natalie Romanyshyn and Daphne Glatter, are freshman.

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The student organizers met with Josh Cogdill, the principal of VHS, to work out how the walk would happen and to make sure the students participating in it would not be punished. At some other schools around the country, students were told they would be disciplined or suspended if they participated in a walkout. An email was sent out to VHS parents to inform them on what would be happening and that police would be on scene for safety purposes. The organizers sold buttons with the #enough hashtag and baked goods, raising about $275 for Moms Demand Action, a national group created after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 that is asking for common-sense gun reform.

Konrad-Parisi said that, while the organizers were working, she was confident in her peers and knew that there would be a good turnout. “When planning it we knew we would have at least 100 people,” she said. The turnout was about 25% of all students at VHS. Those who did not choose to participate stayed in their classes or study halls. There was a separate walkout in front of H.B. Whitehorne Middle School.

The walkout in Verona was one of many around New Jersey and around the country. According to Baristanet, there was a very large walkout at Montclair High School. There were also walkouts at James Caldwell High School and Grover Cleveland Middle School in Caldwell. Students, including some of those who survived Parkland, will be leading the March For Our Lives that will take place on Saturday, March 24 in many cities, including Newark, Morristown and New York.

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Separate from the walkout, VHS students ages 17 or 18 were able to register to vote during lunch yesterday. There will be more voter registration drives at VHS this month and in April.

Walkout photos courtesy of Kathleen Seubert, Tammi Rawding, Kathleen Nulty and George Cortese.

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