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78 MAHS students take part in national walkout, focus on mental health over gun control issues

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 3/16/18

Across the country, students stood in solidarity Wednesday with the victims and survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people …

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78 MAHS students take part in national walkout, focus on mental health over gun control issues

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Across the country, students stood in solidarity Wednesday with the victims and survivors of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed.

Wednesday, on the one-month anniversary of the shooting, Middletown students walked out of class and participated in a moment of silence at 10 a.m.

In the afternoon, Middletown Area Middle School students stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the halls. On the sixth-grade floor, students lined up to sign a poster that read “Never Again.”

 

READ THE RESOLUTION PRESENTED BY MAHS STUDENTS

 

That poster and similar posters signed by the other middle school students will be placed in the school lobby.

Eighth-grader Lani Moore said people are searching for ways to understand what happened.

“Unlike any time in the past, students are taking a strong stand and are making their voices heard in thoughtful and meaningful ways in regards to school violence,” Moore said over the intercom. “Today at MAMS, we are making our voice be heard because we believe that no child or staff member should go to school fearful of his or her safety.”

At the high school, 78 students walked out and stood in the courtyard as junior Terrance Jefferson read a resolution by students to legislators, advocating for student mental health legislation. The students stood in silence for 17 minutes, and a chime rang out every minute in memory of the people who died.

“We agreed as a student body that gun control wasn’t the issue. The issue was the mental health of the student body. That’s what we wanted the resolution to focus on,” Jefferson said in an interview after the walkout.

“Hurt people hurt people,” Jefferson said. “No weapon kills a person. It’s a person who has to commit the action. The way to best combat that would be making sure all people feel included and stable enough that they don’t have to go to extreme measures to solve difficult problems.”

Students who did not want to participate in the walkout, but still wanted to show their support, signed the resolution or purchased a T-shirt that read: “Walkout: Together we stand.”

“It was a national movement amongst all the states. Students decided that enough was enough, and the safety of schools and the remembrance of lives should be put first,” said Jefferson, who was one of the organizers.

“It was a diverse group of people that came out there and shared one characteristic, and it was compassion,” Jefferson said.

None of the students realized they came from different social circles, he said. “Everyone just stood out there, and it was one bond.”

Organizer Keely Lombardi, a senior, said MAHS students pushed for the event because they felt something needed to be done within the district to highlight what students and legislators could do.

“We didn’t want to sit around and hope these shootings stopped,” senior and organizer Kyle Truesdale said.

To participate in the walkout, students had to write a letter to state Rep. Thomas Mehaffie.

“We wanted something more than just a walkout to be done,” Jefferson said. “We were trying to come up with ideas to show people that we want more to get done.”

Several weeks ago, student leaders gathered and discussed what they should do. Truesdale had the idea to write the letters to Mehaffie, and Jefferson and another student in the MAHS Youth in Government Club drafted the resolution. Because Middletown is close to the state capitol, Lombardi said the students were looking for ways to help students nationwide.

“We also discussed what are things that school districts could do, administrators, security officers and infrastructure. How can we make the school safer? How can we stop intruders?” Lombardi said.

MAHS, Lombardi said, is a good example of school safety. She said the new school that opened last year was more secure than the old one, and students and staff are aware of what to do in case of emergency. Truesdale added that because the student body is small, students know and are willing to get to know each other.

“Our school is very good at balancing the correct measure of infrastructure safety and student safety … so that the school is really a safe environment and safe place to be,” Jefferson said.

When planning the walkout, the students looked for ways to expand on the idea of a walkout, Lombardi said. Several students came up with the idea to design and sell T-shirts, and donate the profits to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The school could use the money wherever they need it, she said.

The students raised $700 in T-shirt sales.