"Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Educations is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family."
Op-Ed: School Walkout: Stifled or Supported?
by Sage Addington '18
Letter from student to Principal Romero
Dear Principal Romero,
My name is Jocelyn Sung. If you haven’t heard about it yet, schools across America have been planning a nationwide protest on March 14th, starting at 10AM. For seventeen minutes, students who would like to participate are supposed to step out of our classes to join in voicing our disapproval as Congress continues to dance around the matter of the school shootings plaguing our nation.
The reason for this letter is to ask for your permission for the students and faculty of Gallup High to participate if they wish to. This is my personal reason why:
I live in a society where school shootings have seemingly become the norm. I live under a government sworn to protect us and protect our freedoms, but what are they doing? They’re fighting against those who want stricter gun laws, but not fighting against the despicable people that are so ruthlessly slaughtering America’s youth.
I go to a school to receive an education, but instead, I find myself constantly watching others. I often find myself looking over my shoulder during class to ensure my physical being isn’t being threatened. I should be looking forward, focusing on my school work, planning for my future. I shouldn’t be viewing my peers in such a negative and distrusting manner, yet I can’t help it. If that is the price I have to pay for the possibility of a few more seconds of living, then I will do so without hesitation.
The entire situation is truly absurd. How many people immigrated to America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for education, for a chance to excel in life? How many people in other countries, in third-world villages and poverty-stricken neighborhoods, crave the many opportunities that are paired with education? The answer is this: too many for so many broken people to strike such horror and fear in the buildings where it is a child’s right to learn.
Our proposal is this: for those individuals who wish to participate in this event, we will assemble in the Commons ten minutes before 10AM. During this time, we will both organize ourselves and sign a poster, of which will most likely display the protest’s hashtag, #EnoughIsEnough in bold lettering. Once 10AM strikes, we will march around the campus. Depending on the efforts of my younger brother, Brandon Sung, students from Chief Manuelito may also be joining us. We are planning to ask Gallup PD to escort us, ensuring our safety with their presence.
Mr. Romero, we understand that it is ultimately up to the district to decide if they will allow GMCS to participate in this protest or not. We are asking for your permission, and if you are willing to give it, we ask that you help bring our cause up to them. You might have a larger impact from your position as principal of Gallup High.
We are not simply high school students as of now; we are young adults, respectfully asking to do our part in making a difference in this nation. Please, assist us.
A few of my friends insisted they would walkout, saying, “F*ck that, they can’t suspend me for exercising my First Amendment right.” When it comes to a walkout you can’t get suspended unless you're already on your fourth or fifth offense, it’s against the handbook. But you can get in trouble for refusing to attend classes after arriving at school; it’s considered ditching.
The First Amendment, as worderd in the constitution, says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Freedom of speech and expression doesn’t mean freedom from punishment. One has the freedom to assemble, but since it’s during school hours, one is still susceptible to misconduct offences.
Students are having a hard time telling whether or not the walkout was being stifled or supported. When I walked outside one of my acquaintances was angry saying, “Dude, can you believe this sh*t?” and “They’re interrupting our protest.” I joked that the school could be supporting the walkout, by letting the entire school out, and she said, “No, they wouldn’t do that.” It is possible that since a large handful of students wanted to participate in the walkout, the school did not want to punish so many students.
At 9:57 AM, three minutes before the scheduled walkout, the fire alarms went off and students evacuated the school. According to a second hour history student, Ms. Bonaguidi reportedly looked at the clock and said, “It’s early,” when the fire alarm went off. Word spread that the school was interfering with the walkout as Chief Manuelito, Gallup Middle School, Central High School, and Miyamura High School were also outside because of a fire alarm at the same time; students at those schools were also planning to walkout. Teachers, shortly after evacuating, were sent a text that said some staff were investigating a gas leak and needed 20-25 minutes to do so. 20 minutes to investigate a gas leak sounds a bit fishy to me, it should take longer. Three years ago, when I was a freshman, there was one full day where all the students were evacuated due to a gas leak. After the evacuation, it was a full hour until we got word that there was in fact a gas leak and we’d all have to be outside all day. Coincidentally, the gas leak investigation on the 14th started and lasted the entire duration of the expected protest. Was the school walkout stifled or supported?