“Thoughts and prayers are not enough” has become a mantra of student activists since the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. At Charlotte Catholic, we believe in the power of prayer, so on March 14, at the beginning of each class period, we, the students, listened to information about the victims from the Parkland shooting and offered up prayers.
Critics felt we fell short by not walking out of our classrooms on that day. With the next National Student Walkout fast approaching, we’ve considered the best way to show solidarity with our peers across the country, while still being true to our identity as students at a Catholic school.
With its recent emphasis on “walking out,” too much of the rhetoric surrounding student activism has pitted students against not just Congress or the NRA but also school administrators. Walkouts are a form of peaceful protest, but they call attention to the issue of gun violence by defying school rules.
We need a paradigm shift. Like us, administrators and teachers have been deeply affected by school shootings. Across the country, teachers have hidden students while bullets ricocheted in the hallways and even used their own bodies as shields. Dozens of educators have lost their lives in school shootings since the Columbine tragedy. They too are in danger and they too have been victims. As the number of school shooting fatalities has mounted, administrators and teachers are working to find ways to make classrooms and hallways safe for their students — and themselves.
Doesn’t this mean that the teachers and administrators are actually on our side?
In the media, we see various groups who are working to silence our voices and maintain the status quo. Pope Francis recently said that “the temptation to silence young people has always existed ... to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing.” Adults who work in our schools, however, are not the ones who are trying to silence our voices. Our activism is meant to draw attention to the epidemic of school shootings and to call for changes that will end it. Teachers and administrators share our goal — to make schools safe.
Student activists around the country are planning to honor the victims of school shootings with walkouts this Friday. We are making plans, too. We have reached out to our administrators and teachers and have invited them to come together with us to honor the many who have lost their lives to gun violence in schools since the Columbine massacre 19 years ago. On Friday, at a student-led event, those in our school community who wish to participate will assemble in the football stadium to pray and remember the victims of each school shooting since Columbine. To represent the victims, a corresponding number of students, teachers and administrators will gather on the field to create a powerful visual reminder of the number of lives lost. In this way, we will join students around the nation in drawing attention to the tragedy of gun violence in our schools.
We hope students from other schools will take notice on April 20 as we work with, not against, our school administration, and consider how they too may be able to ally themselves with all who would cry out against the violence in our schools.