If you’re wondering why the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has stayed at the forefront of our minds, look no further than the students who’ve refused to let the outrage dissipate.
Saline High School students are among those working to keep this issue fresh in our minds. On March 14, at 10 a.m., Saline High School students will walk out of their classrooms.
Why they’re walking out depends on who you ask. Saline students, like any cross section of America, have differing views on how to address the problem of school shootings.
A new student organization called the Executive Student Advisory Board grappled with this issue when deciding how Saline High School students should take action as students from all over the country walk out of school March 14 to ask for stricter gun control. The advisory board is composed of students from all walks of life - athletes, singers, student council leadership and members of various clubs and groups. They discuss issues with Saline High School administration.
On the issue of gun control, there was no consensus. But elsewhere they were able to find agreement. Nolan Wright and Rosie Kendall are the chairs of the advisory board. Wright is conservative. Kendall is liberal.
Kendall is a member of the Washtenaw Youth Initiative, a group formed to lobby for gun control measures after the school shooting in Parkland.
“Rosie and I are on different sides of the political spectrum, but we work together perfectly. We always come to consensus because we talk about our issues instead of arguing all the time,” Wright said. “What we’re doing allows all students to be united on a common issue; There’s a problem with people getting shot up at schools. We want this to stop. But we’re not supplying a solution.”
Wright hopes that Saline students participate in the walk out. But he said students should respect those who don’t.
“It’s your right to participate, but if you don’t, you will be respected for staying inside,” Wright said.
The executive board has adopted the stance of the school district, which is to remain neutral on issues like gun control.
So on that day, students will walk out of class. They’ll head to Hornet Stadium for a brief protest. The protest may be held in the gym if the weather is poor. They may stage a “die-in,” a protest where people lay down and act is if they are dead.
And then they’ll return to class for exams.
Most of them.
Kendall, Brianna Camero-Sulak, Oliver Chapman and Kat Andrade will head to Riverside Park in Ypsilanti to protest for gun control measures. They’re members of the Washtenaw Youth Initiative, which has members from every school in the county. They’re re-arranging exam schedules on that day to participate.
Camero-Sulak has relatives who live in Fort Lauderdale. In the aftermath of the shooting, she was scrolling through her social media feeds, seeing her family members sharing the disturbing images and videos.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh, my God. This could be us,’” Camero-Sulak said.
She decided that something needed to be done.
“I will not be the next victim. I’m not going to be one of the names read out loud,” she said. “I will make sure that my friends in this school and all the young people around me will not be in a casket because of this school.”
Chapman wants to turn up the heat on politicians.
“One of my strongest reaction to this is anger. Anger at policy makers who have done nothing. We’ve had Columbine. We had Sandy Hook. And now we have Parkland,” Chapman said. “I joined to make a difference and I’m really glad that we are.”
Andrade said she was spurred to action when she reflected on her initial reaction to the incident.
“At first, when I saw this, it felt like, ‘Oh, there’s been another school shooting.’ I didn’t have an emotional reaction until later that day when I talked to my mother about it,” Andrade said. “After hearing the emotion in the voices of the parents talking about their children, it hit me, and I knew I wanted to do something so it never happened again.”
Kendall said students aren’t going to let this issue fade away.
“Other shootings were just as horrible as Parkland. We looked to our legislators and we looked to our parents to make the change. But as we got older, these things kept happening. And legislators did nothing. Why do we still have to go through this trauma?” Kendall said. “So we look at ourselves and think that we, the students, are the only ones who can do anything anymore. We keep this story in the news. People in government want this story to go away. They don’t want us to think about Parkland and Sandy Hook. They want it to go away, and we won’t let that happen.”
One of the group’s slogans for the rally in Ypsilanti is “We Call BS.” If it sounds angry, it’s meant that way. From time to time, you can hear the anger in the students’ voices. They feel let down by adults.
“You would think that with children dying, with children being shot to death, that the adults in power would actually do something. That they’d drop everything they’re doing and protect children,” Camero-Sulak said. “But instead the opposite is happening. We have a minute of silence and then we carry on.”
So the students are leading the cause.
“We are the targets. We need to be the change,” she said. “We can’t wait for the change anymore. We have to force the hand.”
The students have watched the kids from Parkland become political lightning rods. They know by taking sides in a political issue, they may face the wrath of political opponents. On social media, they’ve already seen it.
“We’ve had people on Twitter call us ISIS and had a lot of nasty comments on our Instagram,” Kendall said.
The students seem to understand it’s part of the battle.
“Every movement before us was criticized. So I am taking it as a compliment. It means we’re doing something right,” Camero-Sulak said.
“In the civil rights movement, they were spat on, yelled at and even killed. Not that I want to go through any of that, but if it means that it could save a kid’s life, or that one day, my kids won’t have to grow up being scared of being shot at school, honestly, it’s worth it,” Andrade said.
Concerned as they are about school shootings, the students say they feel safe at Saline High School. They appreciate the new front entrances and the locked doors. They're also appreciative of high school administrators who listen to their concerns.