Activism Missing in Walkout
By Ava Francis-Hall
On Wednesday March 14th, Novato High School Students gathered in the Old Gym in for a memorial to the students killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. It was a unified moment of mourning that signified Novato High’s commitment to coming together during hard times.
The memorial was appropriate and powerful, but the missing component was what every walkout in the nation surrounded: the topic of gun control.
The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead and countless others injured sparked an unprecedented wave of student activism that has swept across the nation. Students from MSD turned into activists for gun control virtually overnight. Those individuals planned the march on the 14th to pay honor to those killed in the shooting and also to demand more gun control and legislative action by lawmakers.
At Novato High, students were called out of their fourth period classrooms and were permitted to optionally attend the “walkout”. There were a few who chose to stay behind in every classroom, yet a large majority of the student body arrived in the gym.
Gabriel Garcia and Hazle Thunes began the ceremony by singing “Don’t Give Up” by Gabriel and Kate Bush. Students killed in the shooting were recognized by posters held by students and staff who resembled the qualities of the deceased.
March 14th was a day of walkouts for schools across the country. On the march’s website, the goal was stated.
“Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.”
Our assembly looked very different. There was no mention of gun control or politics whatsoever and no student voices were heard, besides representatives from ASB Leadership.
Senior Olivia Glinski described her experience.
“The school definitely took a little too much control in this and it was good in the sense that it was organized and smooth and fast, but I feel like it was less organic. It wasn’t as organic as it could have been,” said Glinski.
Principal Matt Baldwin expressed that he had little control over the walkout plans, and that it was completely up to the ASB leadership class to plan the walkout.
“It was built and designed by students as a rememberance not as a political agenda, from my perspective, so I don't remember anyone ever discussing bringing up politics or ever voicing anything regarding politics,” Baldwin said. “The reason why I support it is because it was a remembrance of the seventeen lives lost in Florida.”
ASB Leadership set up tables at lunch in which students could write a letter to their representative. Junior Melina Paisley did not think that was sufficient enough.
“It felt trivial. It didn't feel real. They were printed on colorful slips of paper; it didn't feel serious,” said Paisley. “These are our lives and the politics that affect our lives and it was written in cursive as if it didn't matter, and it made me not want to write about it, it made me not want to send in a letter.”
Conservative junior Phoebe Zea chose not to attend the NHS memorial. She believed that the school’s non-political stance was the best course to take.
“I think it’s good, I think it broadens the whole group of people who wanted to participate because it did get rid of that political bias,” said Zea.
Elliott Scheuer and Monica Singh are partnering with other Marin high schools to plan a March For Our Lives on April 21st. The young activists are partnering with the Marin Youth Commission and the Moms Demand Action group to plan the march.
One ultimatum conservatives and liberals agree on is that the dynamics of power and communication are changing between student and lawmakers.
As Scheuer said, “We can learn from those students that everybody has a piece of them that are ready to make change, you just have to embrace that. You just have to be willing to be bold and make choices and take risks that other people aren't going to.”