About 250 Pleasant Valley High School students stood together in solidarity in the middle of the football field Friday to protest gun violence and demand action on gun reform.
Some students held signs that read, “No more silence,” and “You can’t build peace with a piece.”
Several students donned orange “Enough is Enough” t-shirts. At least one student had placed duct tape over her mouth in silent protest.
They all could agree – something needs to change when it comes to gun violence both locally and across the country.
“We do not want to become another generation that loses hope,” Junior Lily Williams told the crowd. “We must ensure that this activism does not fade away after the walkouts and the marches. We have to take determined steps each and every day.”
At 10 a.m. students from across the country walked out of class as part of the National School Walkout to protest the lack of action from Congress, state and local leaders to prevent gun violence, according to National School Walkout website. It came on 19th anniversary of a mass school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and served as a remembrance of the 12 students and one teacher who were killed by gunman Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The two committed suicide in the school after the shootings.
“The goal was to get as many people out here as possible, knowing they want change,” said Keshav Wagle, a PVHS senior and one of the organizer’s of the walkout. “With sheer numbers alone, people will see that, legislators will see that, and they’ll see that enough people want change.”
“We are aware that gun violence is not just a Columbine issue, a Sandy Hook issue, a Virginia Tech issue, a Parkland issue,” Williams said. “We recognize that gun violence is not just a school epidemic. Gun violence is not just a domestic abuse statistic. Gun violence is not just a reality of racial injustice. Gun violence is a United States epidemic affecting all corners of our country, even here in the Quad Cities.”
Wagle, who is the son of Pleasant Valley School Board member Nikhil Wagle, said students should feel 100 percent safe when they walk into their school.
“Even if there’s a slight chance that you don’t feel safe, it’s not right,” he said. “We come here every day, we need to be here in order to properly succeed in life."
One idea he suggested to strengthen school safety is to require every student to show their student identification card when they enter the school. He also encouraged students to say something if they see something, whether they believe it’s serious or not.
“Nothing can be taken as a joke,” he said.
He also encouraged students to continue to advocate for what they believe is right.
Students across the country, including some in the Quad-Cities, held a similar walkout March 14, one month after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. Accused gunman, Nikolas Jacob Cruz, was arrested shortly after the shooting. That shooting set off a fierce debate surrounding gun control and school safety across the nation.
PVHS Junior Ava Siegler encouraged students Friday to accept opinions different from their own, no matter where they stood on the issue.
“How are we supposed to make a problem better if we only accept one side of the argument in a positive light?” she asked the crowd. “How are we supposed to claim that we accept everyone when we only interpret one set of ideas and attempt to censor those that we disagree with?”
North Scott High School
At North Scott High School, students walked out to Lancer Stadium for a 17- minute program.
Ivy Jensen, a senior, and Alexis Raleigh, a junior, are two of the organizers for the walkout.
Raleigh, 16, said students started talking about organizing something after the shootings in Parkland and the death of fellow North Scott student Scott James “S.J.” Madden Junior, 15, of Park View. The teen was killed in a two vehicle, head-on crash near Eldridge Feb. 14, the same day as the Parkland shootings.
“A lot of people talked about how painful it was to lose (Madden) on the same day Parkland happened,” she said.
Jensen, 18, said she has been passionate about gun safety since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. She was only 12 at the time.
“It’s always been important for me,” she said. “A lot of people really understand that it could be any school. It could be anyone and it needs to be taken really seriously.”
Raleigh said the goal of Friday’s walkout was not just about gun control.
“We have said that it’s about getting legislation passed to address school shootings and the amount of gun violence happening in schools,” she said.
Raleigh and Jensen said that could be accomplished by having A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) drills in schools, locking classroom doors, and having an officer on campus.