Walkout: Silverton students plan participation in national anti-gun violence event

February 2018 Posted in Other

By Peggy Savage

In the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, a group of Silverton High School students are organizing a walkout to protest gun violence in schools and the lack of change that has occurred to stop the violence.

Sophomore Orion White and senior Elijah Rakha-Sheketoff are coordinating the event as part of the March 14 National Student Walkout. They said it is meant to bring together communities and students to demand that Congress pass legislation to keep kids safe from gun violence.

“We are standing for school safety, with a specific slant towards tighter regulation on guns,” said Rakha-Sheketoff. “Our group does not believe the way to make safe schools is to increase the presence of deadly killing machines as some would believe.”

Principal Wade Lockett said he supports the students’ efforts.

“We want to provide a safe environment for our students where their voices can be heard, but that doesn’t create friction in the school,” Lockett said. “When we learned that this was a nationwide event, with a lot of schools looking to take part in a walkout, we had a meeting with the kids to discuss this, and I said yes, let’s schedule it.

“We have a very politically active student body, which is something we encourage,” Lockett said. “We want our kids to express opinions and in a safe environment. My first reaction was that if our kids want to take part in this, then we want them to take part in it. That said, we want to create a safe environment that doesn’t disrupt our school day.

“If they do this, we want it to be a growth and learning process for our students,” he said. We will have kids on both sides of this issue, which will make this a potentially valuable learning experience.”

White, Rakha-Sheketoff and about 40 other students invited parents, educators and fellow students to a meeting Feb. 25 at Oak Street Church. The plan calls for students to gather at 10 a.m. on March 14 for 17 minutes in the school courtyard, Rakha-Sheketoff said. The purpose is to honor the victims in Florida, support gun control and to stand in solidarity with students marching in Washington D.C.

“We are not saying Silverton is a problem. We are trying to put Silverton into the national conversation, something a lot of people feel they are being left out of right now,” White said. “We have been having a lot of school shootings, way too many. It’s not going to be helped by putting more guns into circulation. We need to put higher restrictions on weapons of mass destruction. The solution is not to throw more guns into the mix, but to start realizing the capability for damage.

“Specifically, congressmen should be prioritizing student safety over the donations of the NRA,” he said. “I think a lot of students across the nation feel their voices haven’t been heard. Not only because we are under 18, but because we don’t’ have that kind of money. We are saving money for college instead of putting millions of dollars into a congressman’s war chest. That doesn’t mean we are less valuable, it might mean we are more valuable, because we have the numbers in terms of support, not just the dollars. We have actual people supporting us instead of just money.”

The question of student safety hit home Feb. 23 when a social media post alluding to a possible threat at an unnamed “SHS” had the school and police on alert. After investigating, Lockett wrote a message to parents that the viral post originated in Ohio, not Silverton.

“So, we were relatively certain when we walked into school this morning, that the social media did not refer to this Silverton High School,” he said. “That said, it still makes people uncomfortable, so we have law enforcement here today to help guarantee the safety of our kids.

“Safety for our students is our number one job. Sure, academics are very important. But when parents send their kids to school, what parents expect is that their kids will come home at night, and we take that very seriously.”

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