After the national tragedy at Marjory Stoneman High in Parkland, Florida, some of the surviving students organized a national demonstration to call for better gun control laws and safer school zones. The teens made rounds on national television and eventually forced a CNN town hall to confront legislators and second amendment enthusiasts about what happened in their high school that left 17 people, including a number of students, dead. Having gained a national platform, the teens orchestrated a School Walk Out and encouraged students across the US to take a stand for stronger gun control by leaving their classes and gathering outdoors. Throughout the United States, students flooded from their schools, some under threat of detention or suspension, and carried demanding that students’ lives be made a higher priority than assault weapons.
The movement garnered attention throughout the world and was backed and supported by the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington and a number of politicians, athletes, and entertainers, both domestically and internationally.
However, the movement was not without some strong dissenters in a number of capacities. One school shooting survivor from a tragedy in Michigan publicly noted that he found the movement disrespectful and pointless, as he believed students should be more focused on their school work.
Still more found the movement to be a mere media stunt. Particularly those who defensive of the second amendment and their intrinsic right to bear arms took offense to the students’ shirking their school work and disrupting their educations to make a statement that will not lead to any notable change.
The most interesting dissent, though, came from a group of teachers who co-opted the movement and challenged students to “walk up, not walk out.” Rather than stage a protest, teachers wanted their students to befriend the bullied, lonely, or outcast students as a means of addressing the root of the problem. Historically, school shooters have been socially estranged from the rest of their classmates and expressed a lot of antisocial and hermit-like qualities. In a number of schools, teachers asked their students to walk up to the kids who usually eat lunch by themselves and say hi. Other schools had their students write nice things on sticky notes and distribute them among the lockers.
The “Walk Up Not Out” movement itself took flack in the media for making it the responsibility of the students to preemptively halt a school shooting. Some also argued that it put students at risk of angering psychologically unwell students. It also took guff for the impracticality of asking students to approach people who may harbor ill will towards them for racial or religious reasons.
It’s great to see young people standing up for what they believe in, and the way their movement is perceived has been fascinating to watch.