Student walkout: An opportunity for youth locally and nationally to lead the way on gun safety

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 6:13 PM
Dan Snowberger, superintendent of Durango School District 9-R, worries that a national movement for students to walk out of classrooms on March 14, to show support for measures to end gun violence in schools, could create an unsafe environment for students.

Building on the frustration of the lack of gun safety in our schools and nation, expressed so articulately and emotionally by the students of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting, youth marches across the country are scheduled for 10 a.m. in all five time zones on March 14.

How important is the date?

That Wednesday is one month after the Parkland school shooting. The marches will have a duration of 17 minutes, to honor the 17 students, faculty and staff massacred that day.

The 14th is a school day, of course, and Durango School District 9-R’s superintendent Dan Snowberger has expressed concern (Herald, Feb. 28) for student safety as students participate off-campus in the nationally-announced event. Safety is paramount, and if something harmful should occur some of the responsibility might fall on the district.

Instead of participating in the walkout, Snowberger has encouraged principals to schedule some other type of recognition activity in their buildings.

He pointed out that there will be another chance to demonstrate on a non-school day 10 days later. On Saturday the 24th, the Durango Indivisible group is scheduling a walk between the high school and Rotary Park at 1 p.m.

Indivisible supporters, and perhaps parents and friends, will be a part of what otherwise will be a youth demonstration.

While we are sympathetic to the school district’s concern for safety during school hours, and would expect no less, the power of the students’ for gun safety National School Walkout is its size, scope and common scheduling. It will be a national event and, if successful, will include tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of students.

It will be the kind of event that, in later years, adults may ask one another, where were you on March 14, 2018?

Education takes place outside as well as inside the classroom. The best combination is some of both, and teachers have the opportunity to make the national March 14 walkout a teaching opportunity, whether students participate or not.

The event is about honoring the victims of gun violence, safe gun ownership and what can be done to protect students.

Any of these themes can be pre- and post-event classroom conversation, but it is also an opportunity for students to take part in a moment in history, in something bigger than themselves and reflect on our country’s history of civic engagement, public protests, marches and other forms of public expression. Ideally, with their teacher’s help, students will be able to engage in constructive dialogue around the challenges they face at school and identify possible actions to take.

The date and time are important. Wednesday the 14th at 10 a.m. is the time for youth to show, in a very public way, the need for gun safety in this country.

Let’s not deny them their 17 minutes of making history.