Local Students Participate in the National School Walkout

Jane Lebak
Both Millis and Medway students participated in an organized walkout on March 14 in remembrance of the Parkland school shooting victims. Photo by Adriana Arguijo Gutierrez
Issue Date: 
April, 2018
Article Body: 

On March 14th, a hundred thirty Millis high school students and about 150 Medway high school students stood from their desks, exited their classrooms, and left the building as part of the National School Walkout.
Millis High School student Maggie Stefanowicz, says, “In doing the walkout, both myself and my classmates hoped to both honor the fallen victims from the parkland incident and call attention to the national issue of gun control.”
The National School Walkout was a nation-wide event in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The voluntary event was scheduled for seventeen minutes to signify the seventeen lives lost. Outside, students from both schools announced the names of each victim, releasing a white balloon for each one.
Millis High School student Vivian Hurwitz was another of the event planners. “It’s so important for students, especially, to voice our opinions and to exercise our rights to free speech and peaceful assembly to stand up for what we believe,” said Hurwitz.
Both Nancy Gustafson, Superintendent of Millis Public Schools, and Armand Pires, Superintendent of Medway Public Schools, sent information home to parents ahead of the walkout. Pires wrote, “We recognize that there are students with a desire to participate in a respectful form of civic engagement on this day. Please know that we value the importance of student voice and will not penalize students for participating.”
“I was so impressed with them,” says Robert Mullaney, Principal of Millis High School. “This was student-led. The kids did everything on this, to the point where they even contacted the Chief of Police and the Chief of the Fire Department, to let them know in case representatives from their departments would like to be there.”
Acknowledging the team effort, Hurwitz says, “Mr. Mullaney, the high school principal, was very helpful when it came to planning the walkout. He was always willing to meet with us to talk about our plans, and he seemed very dedicated to making sure everything was done in a safe, respectful manner.” She also adds, “I’d like to thank the Millis Police Department and the Millis Fire Department for coming out to support us and keep us safe during the walkout. They showed that they stand with the students and our rights to have our voices heard.”
Medway students held their ceremony at 10 a.m., but due to the two-hour delay after Winter Storm Skylar, Millis students moved their 10 a.m. walkout to 1 p.m.
Mullaney adds, “The people building the new school stopped their construction for a little bit so when the kids had their moment of silence it would actually be silent.”
They were silent for seventeen minutes.
Stefanowicz says, “Opportunities like these are essential to all citizens, but especially to the younger generations. In a country where we value voice above all, citizens under eighteen lack the ability to vote. Due to this, we must take any sort of action we can to get our voices heard and stand up for what we believe in.”
“Last year, I went to the Science March and the Youth Action March,” Hurwitz says. “For me, these were both compelling experiences and excellent introductions to peaceful protest and assembly. They made me feel like I was a part of something bigger, and something great.”
Many other students intend to continue advocating for changes that will prevent future shootings. “Our next step is tentative, for we all plan to be on constant alert for any call for action that we can participate in,” says Stefanowicz. “Many of us will be attending the March For Our Lives on March 24th.”
For those interested in safety plans for the local schools, Medway Public Schools will be hosting a Community Forum on school safety for 6:30 on April 4th at Medway Middle School, 45 Holliston Street, Medway in the presentation room. Millis held two community safety events at the library on February 19th and March 1st, and in addition, Millis’s safety plan can be viewed online at http://www.millisps.org/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=10743713.
Homeland Security’s active shooter preparedness guidelines are available at https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness.
Hurwitz remains convinced that prevention is better than responsiveness. “I was very saddened and angered by the Parkland shooting because it just hit so close to home to see other high school students having to go through such a tragedy. For this reason, it seemed important to do something to honor those who lost their lives, and to stand with those who are now seeking change.”