2018’s national school walkout, said to take place on April 20, students from across the country, including from our own Uni High, left their classes to march for better gun control and to remind people that students’ opinions and views matter.
Many Uni students marched that day, one of them being Freshman Charlotte Ebel, who said that she supported the walkout and walked out because of the unfair gun laws. “Students are being affected and we need to change that,” she said.
Sophomore Ethan Muchnik says he went because of the cause, but partly in support of friends as well. “I participated because I thought that it was a good cause and I wanted to support my friends who were organizing it.” He said, “I also wanted to learn about the issue of gun control and how to make a difference.”
Subbie Amaya McDuffie explained that the sheer amount of gun deaths that occur daily and the Parkland shooting influenced her decision to participate. “I wanted to participate because there are seven kids who die every day from gun violence. Some kids are scared or too distracted to go to school.”
Some students, while in support of the movement, could not go because of their parents. “My parents banned me from participating,” junior Jessica Valete said. “However, I still support the movement and did so in every way that I could leading up to the walkout.”
The fact that there was a track meet that night that student-athletes could not go to if they participated in the walkout, affected students’ decisions as to whether or not they should walk out. If a student has an unexcused absence, which participating in the 4/20 school walkout counted, they then cannot attend sports practices, meets, or games on the day of their absence.
“I stayed for the track meet,” Freshman Lauren Lumetta said on the issue, “I had considered walking out, but due to certain time constraints like having to let the coach know well beforehand if you were walking out, I could not. I do kind of regret my decision, however, even if the track meet was pretty fun.”
Sophomore Leslie Anukwu had a similar thought process, stating that, “I did not participate because there was a track meet I wanted to go to.”
According to track runners, Athletic Director Tim Bicknell had addressed students in track about the walkout. In an email, he explained what exactly was talked about.
Firstly, Bicknell says that he encouraged students planning to walk out of school to inform their coaches well in advance. He then reminded them of their commitment to their teammates and coaches, as well as the fact that many of the school resources that have been spent on entry fees as well as transportation to and from the two track meets on 4/20 that totaled approximately $1300. Finally, Bicknell mentioned how there are many productive ways to support causes that do not involve walking out on teachers, coaches, and teammates.
For some students, Bicknell’s thoughts on the walkout impacted their decision on whether or not to go.
Freshman Ethan Simpson Palmer says that, while he participated in the walkout and was in full support of it, as a student and a track runner, he did not believe that Mr. Bicknell was completely in the right when it came to what he told students about participating in the walkout.
“While I was unaffected by Bicknell’s comments because I had already decided on going, I felt like [his talking to us about it] was not something he should have been saying because it sounded like he was trying to convince us not to do it,” Palmer said.
Palmer explained that he and other track people thought that Mr. Bicknell was “citing how their commitment to track and to this meet came before their commitment to the walkout.”
However, not all students thought that Mr. Bicknell was being discouraging by him meeting with the track athletes. “Mr. Bicknell discouraged us from going,” Anukwu stated, “but he also said that he couldn’t stop us.”
Not all Uni students that did not go were in support of the walkout. Sophomore Christina Wu thinks that a walkout will not really do much in the long run. “I support the cause,” she said, “but I do not think it is going to make the biggest impact. Most school shooters are crazy strangers, we need to make buildings and schools safer first before we blame the government for it.”
Other students did not want to walk due to their church leaders and how they feel the faculty felt about the walk out. Freshman Allie Kim says that “All the emails by administrators felt discouraging, and [that her church leader] talked about thinking before you act and make sure what you do actually makes sense.”
Whether or not students were in support of the walkout, the walkout itself has reminded students how important and valid their opinions are.