On April 20th, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were killed at the Columbine High School in Colorado. On this day 19 years later, a school walkout in protest against gun violence spread across the nation.
“We’re all post-Columbine kids,” said State College Area High School senior Kayla Fatemi. “I think, for us, [school shooting] is just something that we have to grow up with.”
Fatemi is one of the six students who organized the school walkout at the State College Area High School on Friday. About 70 students joined them in the school courtyard to protest gun violence. The students demanded common sense gun control and encouraged each other to take the issue to their political representatives.
This is the third event students participated in, after a memorial supported by the school and a “March for Our Lives” with the State College community, since the school shooting that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February.
“There’s absolutely a fear that we’re going to fight really hard right now, but little is going to change and then it all go back to normal,” said one of the student organizers, Auden Yurman. “The amount of students that are speaking up right now - I think, the younger generation is making such an impact that we’re not going to let it go away.”
Students who spoke during Friday’s walkout focused on the lack of legislative reform on gun control since Columbine. They also disputed statements like “gun don’t kill people; people kill people.”
Student organizers talked about how fear of gun violence is an everyday reality for minorities.
“We have to remember that kids deserve to be safe everywhere. Young people in more dangerous areas like many cities and low income areas, or minority kids who are at a higher risk of gun violence should not have to walk around fearing for their lives,” Yurman said.
“There's double standards about who should have guns, who can't have guns, who gets shot because they're assumed to have a gun,” said Kyra Gines, another organizer. She said, as a minority, it matters that this aspect is included in the discussion.
Students also pressed the importance of voting. At the end of the walkout, many of them called local representatives to address their demands.
The National School Walkout website says nearly 2,500 walkouts were planned across the country on Friday.
In a statement, State College Area School District Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said the school district “neither organized nor sanctioned the demonstration, and students who participated will receive a consequence” for cutting class. O’Donnell said the school district “believes in student voice.” School administrators and guards were present during the walkout.
Yurman said she understands the school can’t get behind a political event, but the consequences will be “worth it” for the cause.
“Detention is going to be lit,” Fatemi said, as all the student organizers laughed.
Correction: The article originally attributed a quote from Yurman to Gines.