DHS Students Plan Walkout for School Safety

Protests will occur in schools around the United States as part of the #NeverAgain movement

by Isabella Franklin and Alisha Birchmeier

Throughout the country, students are protesting gun violence by walking out of school as part of a movement called “#NeverAgain.” American high schools have come up with a way to deal with these walkout protests, and Dexter High School is no exception to this. Several students at DHS are planning to participate in the scheduled national walkout protest on March 14 from 10:00 a.m. to 10:17 a.m. The protest lasts 17 minutes in order to honor the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. A later protest will also be occurring on April 20 at 10:00 a.m. in which students will leave school and not return until the end of the day.

Some Dexter students are participating in the protest because they believe that it will be an effective way to express their views and enact the change that they want to see, as opposed to just discussing the issue without action.

“I am participating because I feel that, to affect change, one needs to act instead of just talking about it and never getting anything done,” sophomore Kieran Grossman said.

For other students, there’s also an important moral and emotional aspect to these school protests.

“Gun laws need to change and people need to take action if they want that to happen,” senior Bri Walker said. “I think it’s also a form of respect for those who have died due to the shootings in the past.”

However, a massive protest that disrupts the school day can’t work without any regulation from the school. The Dexter Community School district administration has had several meetings amongst themselves and with students to form a defined set of rules around how teachers and students should behave during the protest on March 14.

“Mr. Koenig and Ms. Walls and I met with student leaders after school Wednesday to kinda talk about what they were intending to do,” principal Kit Moran said. “Our preference for students is going to be students that are planning to participate in the walkout will walkout over the catwalk and out the main door that way, out towards the parking lot.

“Nobody’s gonna tackle a kid and say ‘don’t go in this direction,’ but we’re gonna encourage kids to do that.”

Several high schools have discouraged students from participating in these protests, both by suspending students who attempt to participate in spontaneous walkouts and by banning these walkouts completely. These schools have received backlash for not letting students protest.

“Student protests are important,” Grossman said. “They’ve proven to be important when studying history, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t be important now.”

Fortunately, Dexter students will be able to protest and express their political stances without any disciplinary action.

“We’re in the business of education, and I think for us there are what we call ‘teachable moments,’” Moran said. “I think the administration and teachers, generally speaking, think that this is a teachable moment for kids.”

According to an email from Principal Moran, students will not be penalized for walking out as long as they are back in class before 10 a.m. Teachers will be expected to partner with another teacher, so that there is one adult to monitor the students who stay in class and the students who decide to protest.

Some teachers are offering alternative options to walking out for their students who want to acknowledge the protest without leaving school.

“I would like to try and offer my students 17 minutes of silence in class during third hour around 10 a.m.,” art teacher Krickett Luckhardt said. “I just think that is a peaceful way to give the students closure while still, you know, letting them have their voice be heard in a way that they think might be safe enough. I just feel like the students want to stay behind but still want to participate should have an option to do something.”

To ensure student safety, no one but students and staff will be allowed on DHS’s campus from 9:45-11:00 a.m.

“The reason we’re gonna encourage them to stay in this spot is that we also are planning to basically block the entrances to the high school before that happens, about 9:45,” Moran said. “We’re gonna block the teacher lot and block the two entrances on Parker so that nobody can come or go. So, nobody’s coming onto the premises, if the kids go outside they should be safe.

“The other part of that is you can’t leave the premises, so if we’re blocking it, we’re blocking it … If you have a dentist’s appointment at 10:30 or 11 o’clock, you might wanna pick your child up ahead of time, because we’re not gonna want to be having people traipse back and forth, in and out.”

While some students have concerns about walking out of school harming their chances of getting into college, many colleges and universities have issued statements saying that peacefully protesting in this manner will not affect admissions chances or current enrollment. Among local universities, this includes Western Michigan University, Alma College, Albion College, Kalamazoo College, and the University of Michigan. Students throughout history have been great agents of social change, and this generation doesn’t seem to be any different.

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