Indoor walkout sparks student criticism
April 17, 2018
Stepping into leadership in hopes of making a difference, students including sophomores Emma Caplinger, Sabrina Bohn, Lydia Harter and Cate Mcbride, juniors Tim McAuliffe and Maryam Oyebamiji and senior Charlie Woodruff met with principal Jeremy Mitchell in order to host a march against gun violence, albeit in the gym on March 14.
Bohn, a member of the group Students Demand Action STL, was a key organizer who helped plan the walkout.
“When we were planning it, it seemed like it would be better inside because of the amount of time it would take to get outside, and we wanted to have speakers that could really get the message out—especially to people who were more conservative and a little more confused about gun control versus gun violence—so we wanted to try to [send] that message,” Bohn said. “When we were talking about it to Dr. Mitchell it seemed like a better option to do it inside.”
Parkway Central, South and North High all walked outside of school for their protests, and sophomore Susie Seidel, an attendee in the gym, believes that West students should have done the same.
“In respect to what the school requested, it went well, but I know a lot of other schools that took a different route and that was more demanding,” Seidel said. “I don’t necessarily agree with having it in the gym because it contradicted the original idea of a protest. But it allowed for it to be an event for more people to be involved in without fear of getting in trouble or consequence [and] still show support for the cause.”
Rather than walking out of school, students listened to speakers and were given the chance to write letters to Congress.
“I am really happy with how it went as far as the students who helped plan and the speakers we had. [Juniors Tim McAuliffe, Maryam Oyebamiji and seniors Sydney Kinzy and Kalyn Deutsch] all said powerful, beautiful words that I think made an impact on the students who went,” sophomore Emma Caplinger said. “Even just since the walkout, there have been more school shootings, which really shows how imperative this issue is. So our goal was to get people talking about the issue and keep them thinking about it, and I think we were successful.”
Caplinger and Bohn both hope the 17-minute walkout empowered students to use their voice and speak out against gun violence.
“We wanted this to be like the beginning of something—the introduction of actions you can take,” Bohn said. “The second walkout will be April 20…we will walk outside, and we will go to a protest at the Attorney General’s office in Clayton.”
Principal Jeremy Mitchell helped coordinate meetings for student leaders to discuss their hopes for the walkout and allowed the student body to participate if desired without academic penalty.
“The student leaders main desire was to have an ‘impactful’ rally. Therefore, the inside rally allowed student speakers that could be heard by all participants, a voter registration table and a table for letter writing that would be difficult to achieve in an outdoor setting,” Mitchell said. “The student leaders learned that many folks have opinions and that you have to stay focused on the ultimate goal of the event. It is hard to make a campus of 1,400 students and 200 adults happy.”
Junior Maddie Cooke recognizes improvements could be made for future walkouts but warns against blaming student leaders who attempted to incite change and empower their peers.
“There weren’t many people who were helping plan it out and the people who did plan it out tried their hardest with what they had. It would have been more effective if we did something more to honor the people who got killed. Walking outside is one factor but there were a ton of other things that our school and student body could’ve done to make it more effective,” Cooke said. “It’s not just walking around, it’s [about] making an impact with actions.”