Photo by William Green / MTSU Sidelines
Story by William Green / Contributing Writer and Megan Cole / Contributing Writer
Contributions by Andrew Wigdor / News Editor
On Wednesday, March 14, exactly one month after the infamous mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students across the country participated in National School Walkout Day. During the school day, thousands of students walked out of their classrooms and into their communities to show their support for stricter gun control and a continued conversation. Among the thousands who participated, groups of Murfreesboro students made their voices heard Wednesday.
Blackman High School
A single student walked out of Blackman High School in Murfreesboro as part of the nationwide campaign of walkouts. Valentino Damico, a sophomore at Blackman, met his parents on the sidewalk outside of the school while his classmates staged an administration-approved walkout of class in the school gym.
“The students are worried about the administration dealing punishments out, which is why I suspect there aren’t a lot of people out here,” Damico said. “The administration has been forced to approve the walkout, but they made it where we are not allowed to walk outside. So, we have to contain a walkout inside.”
Rutherford County Schools Communications Coordinator James Evans previously told Sidelines that the main concern was that the students would be easy targets for someone who wished to hurt them due to the fact that they would be all in the same location outside of the school at a designated time.
Damico and his parents, Annie Damico and Roy Forney, held signs that called for legislative action on gun violence and featured the hashtag “#enough,” a growing social media rallying cry for gun violence activists in the wake of Parkland.
Damico described the Parkland shooting and the country-wide teenage activism as a personal tipping point for his willingness to speak his mind on the issue of guns.
“I saw people getting angry, and inside, every time that this happens, I was angry, too, but I was too afraid to speak out,” he said. “Seeing other people speak out and stand up kind of brought back that courage.”
Despite the fact that they own and grew up with guns, Damico’s parents didn’t hold back their opinions on the subject.
“I think that we have put bullets above our children and that we’re more concerned with litigation than lies at this point,” said Annie, Valentino’s mother.
Central Magnet School
Over a hundred students at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro walked out to their soccer field to peacefully protest on Wednesday morning. During the walkout, CMS students bowed their heads in a moment of silence for the victims.
Two CMS students, Jayda Tiano and Jacob Heinrich, helped organize the walk out with permission from their administrators. The students kept their classmates updated by sending out information and explaining the guidelines, and students were required to have their parent’s permission to sign out of school and participate in the walkout.
Heinrich and Tiano also spread their message and organized the walkout using Twitter.
“I feel like this event showed me the impact social media has had on our generation and the out-pour of empathy we are able to feel from across the country with someone we’ve never met,” Heinrich said. “It’s also made me realize just how powerful our voices can be.”
Demonstrators passed out flyers that included the contact information of government officials. Students were urged to contact their local officials and express their opinions about gun control.
Shawn Zheng, a student at CMS, played “Amazing Grace” on the French horn to honor the 17 people killed in the Parkland shooting. Some students were brought to tears during the song.
Heinrich said that it was a highly emotional experience for everyone.
“I was extremely proud of the turn out of students who stood in the cold with us for the entire 17 minutes,” Heinrich said. “We had 117 students walk out with us, which is a little over 9 percent of the entire school.”
In order to avoid missing class, students walked out during their scheduled advisory time, which is a total of 25 minutes.
Cimrun Srivastava, a junior at CMS, described the experience as emotional and invigorating.
“I just really believe that change needs to happen in our current local government; I feel like our voices aren’t being properly heard,” Srivastava said. “I think it’s important for this conversation to be started, and there’s no better place for change than in our youth.”
Emily Jenkins, a junior at CMS, attended the walkout because she strongly believes in gun reform.
“Something about this last school shooting really hit me hard,” Jenkins said. “I feel like we let people know that we’re not giving up, (and) we’re going to keep fighting for gun reform laws.”
Heinrich said that he believes his generation is stepping up and creating change.
“Over and over again, we’re told we’re just children,” Heinrich said. “Yet, here we are creating dialogue and promoting change in a peaceful and productive manner. It’s inspiring.”
To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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