Thousands of high school students, across the nation, walked out of class on Wednesday, March 14 to tell the world they want safer schools.
More power to them. Better put, they’ve had the power, they are now just learning to use it.
Locally, students at many high schools followed suit – Shaker, Bethlehem, Guilderland. Albany … it’s a long list. As it should be. If what happened at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 doesn’t motivate young people, nothing will.
But, even the slaughter of 17 students and staffers may not have gotten them out of their chairs if it was the first one. Or even the first one in a while. Sadly, it’s just the latest in a long line of school shootings beginning at Columbine in 1999, before many of today’s high schoolers were even born.
And they are happening with more frequency.
The walkouts did carry a powerful message, and the nation had no choice but to step up and take notice.
More powerful though, was how Colonie High School students opted to mark the day.
“We don’t necessarily think that is what we should be doing, walking out being silent,” said Colonie junior Brian Grimes. “If we want to make change, we need to stand up and do something for our community and speak out. So, rather than stand outside for 17 minutes we are going to sit inside with some of our representatives and we are going to talk to them about what we can do to make a change.”
Student after student walked across the stage – in front of larger than life images of students killed in past school shootings – to state their ideas on how to make schools safer.
Gun control, a driving force behind the national walkout, was of course mentioned. Any discussion about safe schools must include keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.
But, at Colonie, the discussion went much deeper than any walkout ever could.
Students talked about making individual classrooms more secure, having trained personnel in the schools, better active shooter scenario preparations.
And, they talked about prevention. About better mental health care and counseling and how everyone needs better training in how to recognize signs and symptoms of fellow students who may be headed down a troubled road to whatever end.
It would be easy to lock down schools. To have armed guards in every hallway and metal detectors at every door. But that’s not any real fix. Responding with fear is never a long term solution.
There is one simple solution. No flick of a switch that will prevent Parkland or Columbine from ever happening again.
The walkout kept the focus on school safety, where it should be. The assembly at Colonie, though, focused on those solutions, despite how difficult or complex.
“Who is to blame,” said Max Bomba, a senior. “In the manner of blame. Blame doesn’t heal the wounded. Blame doesn’t repair the bullet holes left on the survivors both on their bodies and in their spirit. Blame doesn’t create solutions. Solutions are most important.”