On Wednesday, March 14, students at Glen Cove High School joined the thousands of others across the country in the national school walkout movement to remember the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, while also bringing awareness to the issue of school safety and gun reform. Several hundred students stepped outside to observe 17 minutes of silence—an event students said they were not sure they were allowed to be a part of until the night before.
“I had been talking with the principal and vice principal about organizing a walkout, and when we met on Tuesday, they said they were not allowed to facilitate a walkout,” said Glory Mayreis, a junior at Glen Cove High School. “Then an email was sent out to parents Tuesday night saying that it was happening.”
Mayreis was among the students who helped organize the walkout. She, along with her twin brother, Jesse, and Andrew Woska, were inspired by the theme of this season’s social action project through their temple’s youth group—gun violence in schools.
“We’re thankful for the school’s support and allowing us to have a voice and express ourselves in a safe way,” said Mayreis.
According to another high school junior, the students were told earlier in the week that they would be staying inside and having a moment of silence. A letter on the school’s website said there would be consequences for students who walked out.
“I know a lot of students were upset by it and me and a few others went and talked to the principal,” said the student, who did not want to be named. “On Wednesday morning, we were told if we wanted to walkout we would have to do so in a peaceful manner through the front door. When the time came to walkout, I was honestly shocked at how respectful everyone was during the walkout. I remember standing outside and just thinking, ‘wow this is really cool.’ I have no other way of putting it. It was just beyond words. To know I was participating in something that was so much more than just myself and being able to show that we, as kids have a voice was really well just that, cool. One girl stood with a sign that read ‘One child’s life is worth more than all the guns in the world’ and I didn’t see her put the sign down at all. It was just really powerful.”
At 9:20 a.m., students stepped outside, in the front of the school, and stayed silent for 17 minutes while Principal Antonio Santana read the names of each victim every minute.
“I am very proud of the mature and serious manner in which Glen Cove High School students participated in paying tribute to the victims of the Parkland tragedy,” said Santana. “Students chose to pay tribute in different ways and it was apparent that school safety and mental health are topics they all take seriously. It was refreshing to see our students coming together to elicit change.”
Students said that they did not see anyone using their phones and any talking was “few and far between.”
“It was very solemn, but also very empowering,” said Mayreis.
In addition to advocating for students’ voices to be heard at the high school, Mayreis has traveled to Washington DC and to Albany in recent weeks to lobby for gun control. She said she has called lawmakers and urged her friends to do the same.
“We don’t want to live in fear any more,” said Mayreis.
The students’ actions across the state drew responses from lawmakers and educators.
“This is a national movement; it is real; and it is being driven by our students,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and Education Commissioner Maryellen Elia in a joint statement. “As educators, we often talk about ‘teachable moments.’ These young people, united in peaceful protest to demand action by our Congress on gun violence, are turning tragedy into a teachable moment for our federal lawmakers. We commend these students for their bold example of leadership in action and call on Congress and lawmakers across the nation to heed their voices.”
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an open letter to Elia in response to reports of some schools disciplining students for walking out.
“These young people are showing more leadership than the so-called leaders in Washington,” said Cuomo. “To punish or discipline them is inconsistent with the freedom of expression that we cherish.”
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