Student Walkout Advocates For School Safety

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Students from Great Neck North and South Middle and High schools joined with students from across the country for the ENOUGH: National School Walkout on Wednesday, March 14, at 10 a.m. to show their support for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community and honor the 17 victims who were fatally shot by a 19-year old former student with a semi-automatic assault rifle in Parkland, FL, a month earlier.

Each high school and middle school student government planned activities with the support of their school’s administrators for this nationwide day of remembrance.

“I applaud our student leaders who organized thoughtful, peaceful demonstrations at our secondary schools as part of this 17-minute observance on March 14,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Prendergast. “Our students developed remarkable programs to honor the Parkland victims and provide an outlet for students’ voices to be heard, while maintaining a respectful and safe environment for all our students and staff.”

The Student Organization at North High held a 17-minute ceremony to remember the victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the school’s front lawn at 10 a.m. The students stood in silence as the name of a victim was read at the top of each minute, followed by the release of a white balloon in that person’s memory.

South High’s Student Government encouraged classmates to dress in white as a sign of unity. A moment of silence was observed at 10 a.m., followed by the names of the victims being read over the PA system. Students who walked out of the building assembled near the flagpole in front of the school, and marched together around the bus loop.

Bonnie Charles, a senior at Great Neck South, who gave a powerful speech reminiscent of a persuasive Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were, said “The turnout was incredible, with more than 500 kids protesting.”

Her speech began by uniting the crowd.

“Together, we’re hoping that our united voices will be heard across the country, specifically in Washington, DC,” said Charles. “To remember the lives of those who were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, FL, and to demand that our lawmakers take action to pass stricter gun control laws so that this kind of tragedy never happens again. As teenagers, students and new voters, we must assume our responsibility and become the leaders of this revolution to change the country’s gun laws. No matter what your views are, one thing is clear: We need change.”

North and South Middle School students also organized activities, but theirs remained inside their buildings.

At North Middle, students stepped into the hallway at 10 a.m. for a moment of silence, while the victims’ names were read aloud over the PA system.

South Middle School broadcast an uplifting video created by the school’s television studio to honor the memory of the victims and remind the students about the importance of kindness, compassion and empathy. The school also made bracelets available to students that read, “Parkland Strong: SD.”

Additional student-led activities throughout the week included creating banners to send to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, sharing video messages of support with the Parkland community, writing letters to elected officials and conducting voter registration for eligible high school students.

In her speech, South High’s Charles expressed the similarities between Great Neck and Parkland and asked her fellow students for a call to action.

“This hits close to home. The students in Parkland are just like us,” explained Charles. “They live in an upscale, supportive community just like Great Neck. By walking out today, we are showing support for them and their movement. We are showing them that we are united in this fight for change. There is strength in numbers. The National Rifle Association blames everything except guns. I encourage all of you to write those cowardly politicians who have sold our well-being to the NRA. Speak your mind. Because of our efforts, everyone will be inspired when they read about how high school students ages 14 to 18 united to change the course of history.”

Charles will be attending the national demonstration, March for Our Lives, in Washington, DC, on Saturday, March 24, and encourages her schoolmates to go, too.

“This is a fight for our lives,” noted Charles.” Don’t leave the future in someone else’s hands. Make a difference by standing up and speaking out for what you know is right and what 97 percent of the American people want—stricter gun control. We must speak up to get our voices heard and every politician must hear us. It’s up to us. Enough mourning our classmates, enough thoughts and prayers, enough allowing assault weapons to be legally purchased. Enough!”

Watch Charles’ full speech: https://youtu.be/LpGHGv9RJmo.

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Sheri ArbitalJacoby brings more than three decades of publishing experience at national magazines to her position as editor of the Great Neck Record. She also writes decorating, travel, food and green articles for Long Island Weekly and Anton Media Group's special sections.

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