About 130 Homer High School students walked out of class Wednesday to show solidarity with the 17 victims of the shooting in Parkland Florida earlier this month. Several students walked out of the school with signs supporting gun control, but student organizers say the walkout wasn’t just about the contentions debate over guns in the U.S. and that it was aimed at promoting change around safety in schools.
“Hey guys, here’s what we’re going to try to do. We have a drone and we’re going to put it up in the sky because it’s a drone, and we’re going to make a big 17 to respect the 17 people that died,” High School Junior Avram Salzmann said as he directed his peers towards the football field at Homer High School.
Salzmann and two seniors organized the walkout at noon Wednesday to show solidarity with the 14 students and three faculty that died after shooter, Nikolas Cruz, entered Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland Florida with an AR-15 and began shooting.
“Really, the kids in Florida initiated it if you want to bring it back that far because they’re the ones who have been standing up and saying this is the time to talk about this right now,” he said.
Salzmann said support from teachers and the school administration varied, but some teachers joined students outside.
U.S. History and Alaska Studies Teacher Dennis Welch said he’s happy students are realizing their voice matters in the debate over school safety.
“It’s pretty amazing. A lot of times, I think kids underestimate the power that they really have, and being a social studies teach, I can look back in history and see how young people have affected change over the years,” Welch said. “So the thought that even though we’re young, we can’t do much, doesn’t really hold a lot of water.”
Senior Joe Ravin was among the three students who organized the gathering and said although some held signs showing an Extra Tough Boot kicking an National Rifle Association logo or signs asking for policy change, it wasn’t necessarily about gun control.
“The student council can’t really say it was their thing to do and the school is not supposed to take a stance. So it’s supposed to be whatever you want,” Ravin explained. “You can come out here and support gun control or support more guns. It’s just whatever you want to come out and support.”
And that’s something his fellow organizers Oliver Beck and Salzmann, who supports gun control, say they’re happy about.
“I talked to people last night about it before who were sort of hesitant to even come out today because they don’t see the same way that I do, and I encouraged them that it doesn’t have to be just about that,” Salzmann added. “It could be about change because that’s something everyone can agree upon. No one wants to see 17 children die, ever. Whatever it takes to stop that, I think everyone can come together for that.”
Students gathered on the field and formed the number 17 around the Homer Mariners logo and took a bird’s-eye view photo with a drone. Students also gathered testimonials that will be packaged into a larger video. Salzmann said they plan to send that video and photos to Alaska’s congressional delegation urging them to make schools safer.