The National School Walkout was a nationwide, student-led protest held on Apr. 20 in order to both memorialize the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting and stand against government inaction on gun reform. At Deerfield, student leaders planned a contribution to this walkout with the same goals.
Deerfield student organizers Abby Lupi ’18, Suzy Mazur ’18, Kye Liew ’18, Nailah Barnes ’18, and Doris Zhang ’18 scheduled a week full of activities leading up to the National School Walkout here on campus. To introduce the topic, the school held two informational sessions about gun safety and the arguments of organizations and political parties in the midst of the gun control debate.
Supplementing these info sessions, the student organizers distributed blue wristbands to people who attended the informational session for the purpose of sparking conversations. Those who attended the walkout were also encouraged by the student leaders to spread the information they learned through discussions with their peers.
In addition, the organizers screened Under the Gun, a documentary with statements from the families of victims of mass shootings, specifically Sandy Hook.
The Young Democrats and the Young Republicans also co-hosted a discussion forum that allowed members of the Deerfield community to contribute to the ongoing discussion.
“I felt very comfortable talking about my opinions in this setting,” said Emma Earls ’20.
She continued, “It was a political discussion, but it wasn’t harsh or tense; we were all just interacting with each other’s viewpoints.”
During another open meeting, leaders informed participants how to get involved and use their voices to make a difference by preparing them to speak to government representatives.
Around the Dining Hall, small papers illustrated basic gun control information to readers, allowing students and faculty members to hold productive and factually correct discussions.
A large group of student volunteers supported the organizers’ efforts, helping run sessions, make posters, and manage an informational booth on the day of the National School Walkout.
Volunteer Grace Mazur ’20 offered her motivation for helping make the walkout at Deerfield possible, saying, “Instead of just being frustrated about this congressional inaction, I wanted to take action, join this movement, and create change. I also wanted to support and get the word out to people on campus who felt similarly about taking action.”
Walkout participant Natasha Leong ’21 stated, “In my hall, they were talking about when the Florida shooting happened and how big of an impact it had on every student in America. It really got me thinking and when I saw that we had a walkout at school, I just took the opportunity to go.” Similarly-motivated students, capitalizing on the chance to walkout during school, brandished posters and wore orange t-shirts in protest of a lack of gun control legislation.
However, not all students agreed with the premise of the walkout.
Mason Horton ’19 said, “I think they should walk out and stand in solidarity with those we have lost and in protest for gun reform, but I was not in favor of the walkout due to the fact that it was anti-gun.”
After seeing the turnout and results of walkout week, Mazur said, “The walkout was certainly successful in sparking a conversation on campus about gun control, and I hope that we, as a school, continue to have important political conversations.”
Similarly, Liew acknowledged, “Each differing opinion is extremely important in terms of stirring up wider campus wide discussion, and I hope discussion leads to compromise, and compromise leads to change.”