OHS: Walk Out and Up


Kendall Gill, Writer

It is nearly impossible for anyone to be unaware of what’s happening across the country both in the news and in our own schools. Student activism has reached an all time high with student walkouts, marches, and protests sweeping the nation and dominating the national conversation, a conversation that has been fueled by the massacre of 17 students in a Florida high school just one month ago. As students stood up to leave their classes at 10 AM on Wednesday, March 14, to give each victim one minute of remembrance, controversy soon followed. It is always easy to view a movement from a distance, as something occurring somewhere else, but what happens when that movement reaches your school?


For a number of students the answer to that direct question is to join. Oakdale saw students in favor of new gun control laws and reforms leave the building in a show of solidarity with Marjory Stoneman Douglas teens who encouraged other schools to stand together. As a flood of students headed for the main doors, it was clear that the most passionate among them were determined to bring the protesters together.


Moments in, as students handed out voter registration forms and March For Our Lives flyers, a handful of students rose up to take charge of the protest. Junior Amy White was the first to command the attention of those outside, pleading for students to show respect and commit to a moment of silence to come together and finally grieve for Parkland. Only a small few students faltered in their silence, while White held it together, leading.


Among others, junior Rachel Harris was a visible figure, compelling others to take the moment seriously, to be present, and allow the silence. It was students like Harris who have made this movement so important.


As walkouts occur across the country, a message is being sent out. It is the hopes of protesters that their statement is not one of hatred or anger, but of frustration and hopefulness for future generations so that people can look at Parkland and say “never again.”


Hoping to get a more in depth look inside the student protests from someone who was involved, we met with previously referenced student, Rachel Harris. Her willingness to be open, honest, and critical when necessary set her apart, making her the perfect person to gain insight from.


Why walkout? Do you feel like this small piece made a difference?


You either walked out to pay your respects for the 17 students and teachers who wrongfully got murdered or to protest to end gun violence or to be anti-gun. Or both, and if you were neither you needed to stay inside.

This walk out made a difference but not in the way it should have. The turnout was great, I know the numbers would’ve been a little less if the people who went outside were people who truly believed in the cause. I found it really disrespectful for the people who walked out for none of the reasons I just stated, and to just to socialize, or to skip, or to do other foolish acts other than the main purpose on what the walk out was truly for. I am thankful to the people who did it and who wanted to make a difference to show their true feelings on gun violence and to respect the people who died. They made a difference. WE made a difference. Not the ones who chose to be disrespectful.

Do you feel like Oakdale stands together or are we divided?

If I said Oakdale stood together, I’d be lying. Oakdale is divided, in my opinion. People act like this school stands together but they need to come to reality because we don’t. Whoever walked out (the other day) wanted to stand up, not let others silence us, and make a difference. Those people are together. In general, here’s where our school divides: pro guns vs anti guns, control vs safety, democratic vs republican. I want our school to come together in the near future. But it’s going to take people listening to other opinions to find common ground and find something that we can all agree on for it to change.

What’s next?

There is a march on Washington on March 24th. The students and teachers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas will be attending, same as from the Vegas shooting, the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Sandy Hook Elementary, Columbine, and so forth. They will be protesting for change in the gun laws that we have in the country today.

There is also another school walk out on April 20th, which is the on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. I think we should gather and talk to students and principals of all the schools in FCPS to see if we can all carpool and go downtown and march for change. I think it will make a huge impact.

What’s the message?

Stand up, Speak louder, Stand out, and don’t be afraid to be a leader. Together, all of us, we can make a difference. Let’s keep our fellow teachers and peers safe. We should not have to come to school and fear for our lives. We come to school to get educated, not to be killed. We need to stop this from happening and we cannot accept that this is to be the new normal. I refuse to accept it. Be the generation that wants to change to make America better, not worse.