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Panthers for Parkland

Taylor Harmon, Staff Writer

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In light of the horrific mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., BHSS administration is working with the student body to orchestrate activities to support the students in Parkland. It all started last week when a group of seniors began talking about walkouts and other events that are being organized around the country in solidarity for this tragic event and how they could help make a difference. Senior Toudora Galuska was among those in this group.

“We started a GroupMe [group message] because we thought it would be a good way to get everyone informed. We are hoping that a protest will make everyone more aware of gun violence in schools, and demonstrate that we as students are passionate about change,” she said.

Less than two hours after the group chat was created, more than 200 students had joined and began expressing their ideas as to how they all could take action and show their support for Stoneman Douglas.

The GroupMe coincided with an email sent to teachers by Principal Mark Fletcher which stated, “Teachers, we are proud that our Panther community wants to show solidarity with other schools throughout the country as they express their desire to end school violence. We would like to form a group of interested students and teachers to plan an activity/activities that can be positive and reflective of our school and its support(…)”

A panther plus meeting was run by Fletcher and assistant principals Joe Doyle and Kate Ratliff.  Fletcher explained to 75 or so students that the current idea is for all interested students to stand outside their classrooms on April 20 (a day where many protests are happening around the country) then walk through the school and out the front doors to the football field. Once on the football field, the students could form a heart shape. Fletcher is hoping to incorporate the names of the fallen Stoneman Douglas students to the event. Ideas including songs and poetry readings were also brought up during this time.

Fletcher and Doyle emphasized that the goal is to have the event be all inclusive, and for all students to voice their ideas, not just about protesting, but keeping our school safe as well.

“Thoughts and ideas you have, I want to know, I’m here too, and I want to be safe too. We’re all on the same team here. If any of our efforts we make deter someone from coming in here and doing something crazy, then our team wins,” Fletcher said.

As the meeting progressed, more and more students voiced their ideas and opinions. Senior Mel Ozturk expressed that while Fletcher’s idea was great, it is not what the Parkland survivors want to see South students doing.

“What those survivors want to see from us is not only solidarity, but also change as to what let this happen. An emotional response is great, but if we can’t help what let this happen then we haven’t done our job,” Ozturk said.

Doyle responded with saying that this is just one step of a long process. “This is a start. This is us saying ‘enough is enough.’”

Similar to Ozturk’s statement, senior Isabel Fernandez also brought up the wishes of the Parkland students.

“Parkland kids are emphasizing that our generation needs to speak up. Adults are devaluing kid’s voices. We need to combine solidarity with supporting their movement,” Fernandez said.

That is exactly what Grace Oeding, one of the seniors in charge of the original GroupMe, is hoping to do. Oeding has plans to create panther pluses dedicated to students writing to legislators to take action against gun violence.

Overall, the one area of friction at the meeting was about the type of message the students and school are trying to convey together. Fletcher said that if students choose to take a stand through the school, there are limits as to what they can do. It becomes tricky for a school to take a political stand on an issue, and for everyone to agree on a message to send. Some students at the meeting said they feel that by sending our “love” through making a heart on a football field, we are not doing enough. The only way to console these grief-stricken students is by taking action and speaking up about gun control, they said.

While there are no set plans for an event, here is what we do know:

-It will take place on April 20th. This is the same day as Global Youth Service Day. Fletcher said students who wish to participate in both will be able to do so.

-There will be ways other than this singular event for students to get involved in taking action through BHSS. Other suggestions included writing letters to legislatures, or holding memorials for the students of Stoneman-Douglas who died.

-Our principals want to hear the ideas of students. If you have an idea, you are strongly encouraged to speak to an assistant principal about it.

 

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