With the blessing of the school administration, Revere High students have planned a walkout for March 14 to honor the 17 students killed in the Florida school shooting, and to highlight the students’ desire to see nationwide reform of gun access laws.
The walkout is part of a larger nationwide effort, but not all school districts are supporting the 17-minute absence from class on March 14. In Revere, however, they are.
Seba Ismail and Isabella Amato, both juniors at Revere High, said the RHS effort just sort of came together when several groups found that the students at the school really wanted to participate.
“We want to stand in solidarity with other students around the nation for 17 minutes to honor the 17 who were killed in Florida,” said Ismail. “We’re lucky enough to live in Massachusetts where gun laws are more strict and we want to be a small part in a bigger effort to support those kids that don’t have these protections in their states.”
Amato, who is a part of RISE, said she and Ismail kind of met in the middle on the walkout, and then started to make plans.
“We were both thinking of the same thing, and the administration met with some key students about the idea,” she said. “We got a huge social media response and learned others were committed to the idea.”
School officials said they don’t relish students missing time in the classroom, but felt this was a real student-led learning experience.
“Although we are not in favor of students missing instructional time, the School Department and the School Committee are supporting these students as we find their causes compelling,” said Superintendent Dianne Kelly. “Locally and nationally, our elected officials need to address the issues of gun violence, lack of access to treatment for mental health, and school safety. I’m very proud of the leadership these young adults have demonstrated through their collaborative organization (several student groups are planning this together) and also in their willingness to raise their collective voices as a means to amplify their message.”
Meanwhile, Ismail and Amato said students have really taken an interest in the walkout as a way to speak out about their rights to a peaceful school environment.
“Above everything else, it’s part of a solidarity thing and to remain committed to out main goal of the walkout, which is to draw attention to gun control and mental health issues.”
Added Amato, “We are the ones being affected directly. We are the ones who are thinking about being victims. If we’re being affected by it, we should be the ones drawing the most attention to the issue. Schools are supposed to be a safe place, and it’s becoming clear that school isn’t safe. Parkland, Fla. was supposed to be one of the safest communities in Florida. It wasn’t supposed to be able to happen there. You have to think if it can happen in a place like Parkland, then it could certainly happen in Revere.”
Supt. Kelly said the administration and School Committee have been impressed with the student-led planning effort.
“In the process of planning and implementing the walkout, these students are likely to learn a great deal more about civic discourse and civic duty than most classroom-based activities would allow,” said Kelly. “We’re not exactly sure how many students and staff members will choose to participate but we are working with administrators at all middle and high schools to coordinate support for participants and non-participants. We are also preparing a letter for parents with more specifics that will go home at the end of this week.”
Ismail said it was very important that the effort was led by students, as it has caused a lot of the student body to open up more about what they are feeling after consecutive school shootings in the last several years.
“A lot of students have opened up and wanted to talk about this,” she said. “It’s important that students are leading this movement. Students at RHS are more open to talking about what they feel where they wouldn’t be if it were adults leading the conversation.”
Both said they hope that the walkout will lead to more conversations about controversial subjects within the high school.
“We want to be able to discuss controversial topics and know it’s ok to disagree within our discussions; that’s important,” they said.