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Students participate in walkout to make statement about gun control

Students stand around the flagpole during the walkout. The walkout paid tribute to the victims of the Parkland shooting, and included several speakers on the issue of gun control.

Samantha Martin, Carlisle High School

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Harsh wind, below-freezing temperatures, and snow did not stop Carlisle High School students from walking out of school in support of gun control on March 14.

The walkout, held exactly one month after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was attended by over 200 CHS students.

The students participating in the walkout met in the lobby of the Fowler building at 10 a.m. and left the school as one unified group. The rally convened by the flagpole in front of the Fowler parking lot, which had been blocked from the general public by a row of school buses, requested by the CHS administration to protect the students.

“Our number one priority as we led up to March 14 was to make sure that all our students were safe, no matter what event or activity they participated in,” said CHS principal Jay Rauscher. “Everything we did in preparation [for March 14] was to ensure that our students were safe.”

A tribute to the seventeen people who died in the Parkland shooting took place once the students were outside.

Seventeen speakers, who had previously been asked to participate, read off the names of the victims, and each name was followed by thirty seconds of silence.

Tyler Sandoval, a freshman at CHS, was one of the students who read a name during the tribute.

“We need change,” said Sandoval. “How many lives are going to be lost until restrictions are finally put in place?”

After the tribute, juniors Michael Smith and Ava Wendelken, along with seniors Collin Willard and Aidan Checkett, spoke on the issue of gun control.

“You should all be really proud of yourselves,” Smith opened his speech. “There are lots of adults who say [gun control] can’t be done in such a gun-loving country; yet somehow, the kids are not saying that.”

The students present at the rally were enthusiastic, cheering and clapping for the speakers and painting on a mural board, which was provided by Color Carlisle. Some carried hand-painted signs, which read messages including “I don’t want to live in fear” and “Enough is enough.”

“I believe that there should be more restrictive gun laws in America,” said senior Rosa Benson, an attendee of the rally. “Too many people have died from something that is completely avoidable.”

Towards the end of the event, the crowd joined Checkett in chanting “Never again!” one of the slogans used by the group.

The CHS administration was appreciative of student conduct throughout the day.

“We were pleased with how the students conducted themselves,” said Rauscher. “We felt that they handled the events of the day and the expectations of the day very well. There were no disruptions, there was no inappropriate behavior, there were no confrontations; everyone was able to share their viewpoints and opinions without interruption.”

Many CHS students chose not to attend the rally, but rather to remain in class, or attend a 17-minute memorial in the school auditoriums rather than the 45-minute rally.

“I did not participate because I believe in honoring the victims, but I did not want to make the political statement that going to the rally would make,” said CHS sophomore Morgan Leshniowsky. “I do want to honor the Parkland victims, but I am doing that in my heart.”

Speakers at the event called upon the student attendees to continue working for gun control even after the event.

“We can’t sit here and do nothing anymore; enough is enough!” said Collin Willard. “The country we live in is a democratic nation; we, the people, have the power. We have the right to vote, we have the right to express our beliefs.”

Wendelken also emphasized action in her speech.

“I have come to believe my father when he said, ‘Every hesitation is a moment wasted,’” said Wendelken. “Do not hesitate to contact your representatives; do not hesitate to register to vote.”

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