Students hosted a walkout to mourn the victims of the Uvalde shooting and protest gun violence
On Monday, June 13, the students at Great Neck North High School organized a walkout for students and staff to share their feelings about the recent school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Schools across the country have planned walkouts to bring attention to the school shootings and demand action. Students are upset, disturbed and angry with the lack of action from the government to change gun laws and protect children in school. Using social media and free periods during school, students have arranged walkouts and prepared speeches to share with their classmates and teachers to make their voices heard.
The Great Neck North students took advantage of the warm summer days approaching and rallied their school to walk out in protest of gun violence. Minutes before the walkout began, students were talking across the fields with their friends, chatting and exchanging yearbooks to sign, but once the microphone turned on to hear speeches from their classmates, they gathered. Despite the end of the year excitement, every student in attendance quieted down and focused their attention on joining together to make a statement.
To start, the student-run Gun Walkout Planning Committee held a 21-second moment of silence in honor of the 21 victims of the Uvalde shooting. The students involved in the planning consisted of Sam Friedmann, Ava Hoffman, Liora Kaya, Jules Sanders, Rachel Sutin and Sahar Tartak.
The committee shared with the Great Neck Record that the group met with administrators to discuss the logistics of the walkout, publicized the event, printed buttons for students to wear and created a schedule to ensure the smooth execution of the walkout.
Friedmann, a sophomore at Great Neck North, wrote and read the opening remarks during the walkout and introduced the speakers.
“The conversation circulating my classes was one of de-sensitivity and an overall lack of
acknowledgment towards the shooting,” Friedmann told the Great Neck Record. “I find it important to share our thoughts, provide ideas, spread awareness and seek an understanding of the other side and the issue itself. I believe that this is exactly what we accomplished on Monday morning.”
Sutin, a sophomore at Great Neck North, listed the names and ages of all the shooting victims along with her speech.
“Today, we promote common-sense gun actions because sending thoughts and prayers without action is deadly,” Sutin said to her peers. “If we continue to exist in this lull of apathy and don’t call our elected officials, sign petitions, share mental health resources and combat underlying issues that make people resort to gun violence, thoughts and prayers will kill more people.”
When the Great Neck Record asked Sutin why she felt it was important to host a walkout at Great Neck North, she said it was because “I’m tired. I’m tired of our schools becoming fortresses, tired of teaching children how to conceal themselves from windows or openings, tired of thoughts and prayers and tired of the deadly slow speed at which reform occurs.”
All students who spoke at the walkout shared similar opinions to Sutin. The students explained how the de-sensitivity to school shootings is disheartening, and making student voices heard is a course of action that they hope can bring about change.
“I go to school to learn, and I actually love it most of the time,” Hoffman said at the walkout. “But the day after the Uvalde shooting, I felt scared to go into school. Even with all the measures we have in place, I was still terrified something would happen. That worry took away time from learning and made me feel unsafe in school, which should never have happened to any student. Children should never have to feel unsafe in school.”
Students shared how they felt in the days following the shooting and expressed how they would plan escape routes in their heads during classes or sit at home and wonder why school shootings are still a prevalent issue in our country.
Senior at Great Neck North, Tartak spoke to her classmates and teachers at the rally about the discussions some of her classes had the day after the Uvalde school shooting.
“Some of us had the chance to discuss the shooting in class. I wish all of us had had that chance,’ Tartak said. “It’s eye-opening what our classmates said: ‘I’m happy to be graduating so I don’t have to worry about shootings anymore,’ or ‘Sometimes I come up with scenarios in my head of what I’d do in a shooting, what the best and worst classrooms are to be trapped in,’ and even ‘I didn’t really feel anything.’”
“We find ourselves stuck in a cycle after these school shootings of grief, argument, and apathy,” Tartak told the Great Neck Record. “As students, we’re fighting that apathy in order to keep our schools safe. We believe that education is precious and deserves to be fought for. I also wanted to emphasize that bitter arguments and accusations against people we disagree with would not put us on a path to progress. Rather, dialogue, tolerance, compromise, and disagreement in good faith would be more productive.”
While people may disagree on the way situations such as the Uvalde shooting should be handled, everyone agrees atrocities like this need to be stopped. The students of Great Neck North urged their peers and teachers to look past differences in opinion and focus on what we can do better together.
In Tartak’s speech, she listed ways everyone can think differently and come together during times of hardship.
“[We should be] remembering that it’s us against each massacre, not us against each other,” Tartak began to list. “[By] coming to compromises through open dialogue with people who may not agree with us, but who we still view as human. [And by] refusing to resort to apathy; walking out to show that we still care and have not given up.”
After each speech, the students and staff at the walkout applauded the speakers for voicing complicated feelings and sharing opinions on coming together and healing from the horrors of these mass shootings.
“We showed our school, town and community that we refuse to take a back seat on these important issues,” Friedmann told the Great Neck Record.