Both Pilgrim High School and Toll Gate High School students will be participating in a nationwide demonstration originally organized by the Women’s March at 10 a.m. on Wedensday, March 14 in response to the Parkland, Fla. School shooting, which killed 17 students and staff members.
The demonstration is also, in a larger picture, to express frustration and mourn victims from the multiple mass shootings that have shook the country in recent years.
According to Pilgrim class president Zachary Lafontaine, students – with the support of the school administration – will exit the school on March 14 as they are going into their advisory period, a homeroom-type block, and walk in a supervised fashion outside where they will gather for 17 minutes.
Similarly, at Toll Gate, the Toll Gate Civic Action Coalition has organized its own walkout, also during their advisory period, where students will walk outside for 17 minutes and observe a setup of 17 empty desks representative of each person killed in Parkland. In addition to a moment of silence, there will also be the opportunity for students to speak.
Lafontaine said that there was no goal or agenda to the demonstration, and that students will return to class after the 17 minutes expire, as opposed to students from some schools in other parts of the country that intend to walk out of school entirely.
“It’s just to show respect for the students who were lost,” Lafontaine said. “It’s mainly to honor them.”
Lafontaine said that, after hearing rumors about students potentially walking out in an unorganized fashion, principal Gerald Habershaw approached him and asked if the students would appreciate the administration working with them to do something more organized and safe.
Grace Reed, who helped found the Toll Gate Civic Action Coalition, said the demonstration isn’t about getting overly political, and nobody is forced or pressured into participating.
“People can participate for a number of reasons…We’re basically saying we’re not letting this happen again,” said Reed. “There were so many people who wanted to do it that we felt we needed to do it and do it well in order to honor the victims.”
Similar to Pilgrim, Toll Gate administrators jumped on board with the concept in order to ensure it is done in a fashion that doesn’t endanger students.
The safety of the demonstrations was of importance to Superintendent Philip Thornton as well, who last week said that it was important to balance the safety of students with being cognizant of their first amendment rights.