100 Green Mountain students join national student walkout

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The first wave of students walk out of Green Mountain High School at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

More than 100 Green Mountain students walked out of school at 10 this morning as part of a national demonstration organized in response to the school shooting at left 17 students and teachers dead in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.

The GM students didn’t go far, stopping at the bus pickup lane to listen to a short presentation by eight of their peers who organized the local event on behalf of National School Walkout,  which was to involve more than 2,500 school nationwide.

The protesters represented about one-third of the entire student population.

The organizers took turns reading from a statement that said, in part, “Our elected officials must do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to this violence. Students and allies have organized the National School Walkout to demand that Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets in our homes and our places of worship. This work is part of an ongoing and decades-long movement for gun violence prevention.”

After the remarks, the names of the 17 students and faculty who were killed in the Parkland shooting were read aloud. The group then observed four minutes of silence, representing the time it took for accused gunman Nikolas Cruz to kill or wound 34 members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community one month ago.

Local organizers of the walkout encouraged students to contact legislators and then read the names of those killed in Parkland, Fla.

The organizers of the walkout urged students to contact legislators regarding gun violence and to demand stricter gun laws.  A second message – that if you see or suspect something is going to happen, to tell someone – followed the period of silence.

After about 10 minutes, the students filed back into the high school and resumed classes.

Earlier this month, Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe had urged school administrators to find other ways to allow students to voice their thoughts on the situation without walking out of classes.

GM students observe four minutes of silence representing the time it took for a gunman to kill 17 and wound 17 others.

Holcombe suggested an assembly as an alternative saying that “…the right to free speech does not extend to disrupting classes (which prevent others from learning), nor to leaving school without permission (which potentially creates a safety threat).”

GM Principal Tom Ferenc, who stood behind the students during the protest, told The Telegraph that he did not interpret the secretary’s letter as saying that the school should not allow the walkout, but that steps should be taken to “avoid disrupting classes.”

The Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union weighed in on the question, sending a letter to schools saying, “The ACLU of Vermont may intervene if a student who leaves school as an act of political protest faces more severe punishment than a classmate would for, say, ditching class to meet friends at a diner.

“Instead of resorting to discipline, we hope your district exercises its discretion to embrace moments like these affirmatively as an opportunity for students to learn firsthand about civic engagement, no matter the cause at the center.”

As for the safety question, two Chester Police cruisers were discretely positioned out of sight in the school’s parking lot from at least 20 minutes before the walkout until all the students were back in the building.

Students were invited to attend a chalk-talk on school safety in the Sam Adams room in the school’s library learning commons that would be ongoing for the remainder of the day.

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  1. Graham Nye '60 says:

    This exactly what we wanted when GMHS was opened. Thanks to the current Principal Mr. Ferenc for allowing the students to express themselves.

  2. Bob Behr says:

    Thank you to Keegan and to all the students who raised their voices in favor of sensible gun legislation. And thanks to the Chester Telegraph for covering our local students’ role in today’s historic events.

  3. Barre Pinske says:

    I think it’s great our students organized a peaceful protest. I strongly believe an ability to express our feelings and positions are vital to a healthy society. I believe our schools need to be made to be as safe as possible meaning someone has to be there prepared to protect the kids. The shooters seem to have two things in common mental illness and a gun. I would like to see that mix not come together very easily.

  4. Keegan says:

    Yayyyy us!!! I’m so glad we got to participate in this.

  5. Charles Craft says:

    How did the enclosed room in the GMUHS library come to be called “The Sam Adams Room”?