Student Walkout - Wednesday, 14 March 2018
As part of a student led initiative to show solidarity with the students at Stoneman Douglas High School, USA, all Grade 5 – 12 students and their teachers left their lessons at 10:00 and gathered in the Agora Sports Hall. They observed a minute’s silence and then listened to the following speech from their fellow student, Monica in Grade 11:
'I would like to begin by saying thank you to all the teachers for taking the time out of their class schedule and the administration for allowing me to voice this message. I know for many of you this doesn’t seem like a relevant event that has any effect on your daily lives. Fortunately, for most of us, it does seem like a distant issue from a nation an ocean away. And that is why we are here. We have the opportunity to stand up and speak out for the safety of schools and the protection of students from gun violence. We are privileged to have this.
Exactly one month ago the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida fell victim of an act of violence resulting in the loss of 14 students and 3 faculty members, 17 additional non-fatal victims, and countless victims of the emotional trauma of witnessing violence in their community against their children. ‘A football coach. An athletic director. And young, eager and forward-looking students had their lives cut short. Students much like all of us. Faculty much like the ones we have and know. And the survivors and families left to pick up their lives after this tragic event. The shooter was one of their own.
School is the foundation to the building of our lives. It is a place where we get an education that then enables us to build a stable future. That stability was taken away for those students and faculty. Everyday in school we are a step closer to a future we have yet to figure out, a future that holds wonders and privileges and opens doors and windows for us to the see the world for all its beauties. School is a place our parents trust we will be okay, where we will be sculpted and built into global citizens that would help grow society into a prosperous city. School is where we should feel safe and protected. And we do. But not everyone does.
For those of you who feel uncomfortable that this issue feels politicised - be assured, as a non-American, I am not in a position to be political about this issue. And the issue of protection for children is not political. It is humanitarian. It is human. It is not an issue that deserves to be debated in government offices or forums - the question of whether or not students should be protected from gun violence is not a political question.
We are almost 3 months into the year and there have already been over 8 mass shootings that have resulted in death or injury in the US alone. In Syria many children have been stripped of the opportunity to get an education and flourish their future due to the struggles their nation is facing. We cannot fail to recognize the Florida school shooting is one of many instances. Situations like these are everyday occurrences for people all around the world. People live in fear, people live each day unable to reassure a seat in the train of life. Unable to reassure their neighbor won’t be the one going off the rails. We, on the other hand, seem to have an all seasons’ first class ticket. Our non-exposure to such issues puts us in a position where we cannot quite comprehend the extent to which these situations affect lives. Children, parents, educators all around the world worry that today will be their last day. We worry that today was a day wasted, that we haven’t done enough.
When I first came to this school in third grade we were asked to list what we believed to be human rights. As 8 and 9 year olds we categorized safety as number one. A human right is defined as ‘a right which is believed to belong to every person’. Due to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and many other acts of violence all around the world I can deduce that safety is no longer a right - it is a privilege. A privilege we cannot take for granted. Where you are in the world, who you associate yourself with and your education all change the prospect of your success and your life. Our gun laws differ from the ones in the US and other places in the world, which hinders our understanding on how a situation like this school shooting could have happened. That on it its own is a privilege. Our non-exposure to guns is a privilege.
When we walk into school every morning, we may be worrying about many different kinds of stresses and anxieties but, in general, being shot is not one of them. Our school’s support system is a privilege. Our security guards, our teachers care, our parents occupations are all privileges that shape us and our dreams and aspirations. We have the privilege to be able to have dreams where our safety is not an implication in their completion. Even though we practice ‘lockdowns’ and talk about issues such as these, we haven’t had to put our practice into use and might never have to. In fact, many of you might have felt that our security procedures are even overly dramatic, as school shootings are extremely rare in European countries. However, we are privileged to continue adding floors, windows and doors to the foundations we have started building here. We continue to attend school with the ease of a community that has not been, and hopefully never will be, the target of senseless violence and terror.
While we are not calling for particular legislation, as most of us are not American, we can show support to the students, parents, and teachers of American schools by uniting and offering our solidarity. We can show solidarity and respect for those who lost their lives in places that are supposed to be safe and secure, and in our case, here at Bonn International School, we are allowed to grow up untethered to violence and mortal threat. We can show support for their friends and their families by recognising the privilege we have in such a safe environment, and for us to ponder the life we have been given.
The shooting in Stoneman Douglas High school took 6 minutes, 34 people were shot, 17 of them died. I would like now to emphasise to you the length of time it took for this heinous crime to happen. Every 21 seconds, for the next six minutes, I will read out a the names of those who lost their lives.
0 seconds - Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
21 - Scott Beigel, 35
42 - Martin Duque, 14
63 - Nicholas Dworet, 17
84 - Aaron Feis, 37
105 - Jaime Guttenberg, 14
126 - Chris Hixon, 49
147 - Luke Hoyer, 15
168 - Cara Loughran, 14
189 -Gina Montalto, 14
210 -Joaquin Oliver, 17
231 - Alaina Petty, 14
252 -Meadow Pollack, 18
273 -Helena Ramsay, 17
294 - Alex Schachter, 14
315 - Carmen Schentrup, 16
336 - Peter Wang, 15
[end at 357 seconds]
Thank you. At 10:17 please return to your classes, and I thank you wholeheartedly for participating in this show of support for students. I hope as a community we can reflect on the privilege and luxury we have to be in a safe and supportive community.'
Have a nice rest of your day,
Monica, Grade 11