Roughly 650 MVHS students, as well as teachers and community members, joined over 3,000 other schools nationwide to walk out of class for the March 14 #Enough Mountain View High School and Community Walkout.
According to the student organizers of the walkout, the goal of the walkout was threefold: to showcase solidarity with victims of the Parkland school shooting, advocate for stricter gun laws at the federal level, and encourage students to vote.
Two city council members and three students gave speeches, and the League of Women Voters, which “encourages informed and active participation in government”, had a booth where students could pre-register to vote.
Student Alex Myers spoke out against what she believes are the failure of our gun laws in America, telling the audience that “on an average day, 96 Americans, 19 of which are under 20, are killed by guns.” She said that while mental health is an issue across the nation, short-term relief can be provided by removing easy access to firearms until a long-term mental health solution is found.
Mayor Ken Rosenberg reiterated the importance of student activism and voting. He told students the most effective way to generate change is through talking and writing local and federal lawmakers, and most importantly, voting.
Student Zachary Moore spoke about how youth political activism could “create a revolution, a tidal wave.” He said that students must vote to push the NRA out of the government because “no important gun legislation will be passed if we do not vote.”
“Only 20% of 18-year-olds vote in midterm elections,” Moore said. “It is our time. We have never had more power or more influence than right now.”
Although student Serena Myjer has been shooting guns as a hobby throughout her life in a “controlled and safe environment,” she said she believes that some guns are too dangerous for public sale and that the government must establish what types of guns can be bought and sold.
“A line must be drawn between the guns that are designed to kill a large amount of people in a small amount of time and hobby [guns],” Myjer said.
Organizer Carolyn Moor said she hopes that the nation-wide movement will receive the attention of Congress to incite legislative change and that the walkout inspired students to become more politically active.
“I was really happy with the turnout,” Moor said. “I couldn’t even see the end of the row, and everyone had the wristbands, were wearing orange and made signs. It was exciting.”
Sophomore James Hoyt attended the walkout because he believes that there should be stricter rules regarding guns in our country, including stronger background checks and tests.
“No citizens should carry a gun ever unless they pass through background checks,” Hoyt said. “Young, innocent kids are getting killed for no reason at all.”
Freshmen Drew Mahlmeister participated in the walkout and she said she felt moved by the speakers.
Senior Sonia Iyer said that she thought it was effective that so many different members of the community came together on this issue and that the organizing students received support from teachers and administration.
“I know that a lot of people say that protests are more impactful if they are against authority, but I think in this case it’s really helpful to have the teachers and administration with us since this is an issue that impacts them too,” Iyer said. “Everyone at school, all of us, are threatened by the realities of our laws that don’t protect us adequately against gun violence.”
David Sillman, president of the conservative Young Americans for Freedom club, said that the protest had been productive, and he was glad that people were motivated to become politically involved and vote. Sillman also stated that he believes that those with differing perspectives than those featured at the walkout should be respected, and it is important for those with different views to start a conversation and find common ground.
“If both parties want to find common ground, they will find it,” Sillman said.
Given the recent epidemic of shootings across the nation, Moor said she believes this shooting, in particular, urged strong student response because of the age of the generation is affected.
“Having the shooting happen to a high school in a time where students and young people are so connected to the world through social media was a perfect combination for this to reach out across the country and reach other schools and other states,” Moor said. “You have a phone, you have a voice.”
School administrations across the country have disapproved of the national student walkout; in one such case, fifteen North Carolina students were suspended Wednesday morning for walking out of class against gun violence.
In contrast, MVHS administration coordinated with the walkout committee and did not threaten suspensions. Administration did instruct teachers to give unexcused absences to students for walking out.
“I think it’s good we listen to our students, not just at MVHS, but also throughout our nation,” Grissom said. “They are crying out for support and safety, and [the political electorate] needs to listen to that.”
In addition, the MVLA Board of Trustees approved a resolution emphasizing the district’s commitment to campus safety on March 12. The district also released a statement after the Parkland school shooting urging California senators to push for gun legislation in Congress.
“The Mountain View Los Altos High School District Board of Trustees supports the right of
students and staff to attend schools that are safe and free from violence and harassment, especially life-threatening forms of violence” the School Safety Resolution states.
Moor said that she felt lucky that administration was supportive of the walkout. However, she said the students and administration ultimately disagreed on what should be the main focus of the event. Grissom said he believes the walkout should have emphasized improving student safety by changing the culture of the school rather than gun control.
“I can certainly get behind anything that has to do with student safety,” Grissom said. “I think that we need to be a little kinder to each other, to listen to each other, to support one another.”
Administration also held a meeting with teachers to establish clear guidelines regarding what teachers could say or do with the walkout. Teachers were not allowed to leave students alone in their classrooms to participate in the march.
Social sciences teacher Maria Carter-Giannini said that she told her class that the walkout was taking place, but she also let her students know that nobody would be pressuring them to participate.
“We were given a lot of good information from our administration about what we were able to say and do, and I think that was really helpful for us teachers to know,” Carter-Giannini said.
Moor agreed that it was “more exciting to work with the school” because staff is impacted as well.
On Tuesday, false threats of student violence arose and student organizers, according to Moor, began to worry that it would affect student turnout during the walkout. Furthermore, the students feared that they would have to cancel the event due to safety concerns.
“We were worried that whether this threat is true or not, it will affect how many people come,” Moor said. “We had a meeting with Grissom, and we talked to the police department, and found out there was no credible threat, which made us more comfortable.”
Student organizers and speakers of the walkout at MVHS and across the nation urged students to continue their political activism after the walkout - by protesting, voting, writing to lawmakers, and even working on a political campaign - to enact change.
Florida responded to the activism from the Parkland school shooting survivors with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. If approved, the law would require all individuals purchasing a gun to be at least 21, bans bump stocks, creates a three-day waiting period for all firearms, and invests $400 million in student safety and mental health treatment. The bill also includes a controversial clause to arm school staff that volunteer.
Social Sciences teacher Jamaica Kreps said that she would not feel comfortable having a gun in her classroom, and she believes that the chances of someone being injured far outweigh any additional security.
“My priority is student safety, and I feel like having a gun in the classroom would actually decrease my students' safety,” Kreps said. “I don’t personally have any training using firearms so it’s hard to imagine any situation where that would be appropriate for me.”
Social Sciences teacher Carter-Giannini said that a teacher walking around with a gun “completely negates the caring and safe aspect of being a teacher”.
In America, three-in-ten American adults say they own a gun, and 67% of gun owners cite personal protection as their main reason for owning one (Pew Research Center). 55% of Americans want gun laws to be more strict, 10% say they should be less strict, and 34% want to keep them as they are now (Gallup).“Now, as you all rise up and take a stand, the nation is pausing to listen to all of you,” Abe-Koga said. “We know that you are the future of our nation.”
At the federal level, The U.S. House passed the STOP School Violence Act bill in a bipartisan vote of 407-10. The law was passed on Wednesday and authorized $50 million to spend per year on measures intended to enhance school safety through training and another $24 million per year for safety improvements such as metal detectors, locks, and emergency notification and response technologies. Yet, the bill would not result in any gun control measures.
Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga urged students to capitalize on the momentum of the current youth-led movement for gun control and school safety legislation.
“Now, as you all rise up and take a stand, the nation is pausing to listen to all of you,” Abe-Koga said. “We know that you are the future of our nation.”