BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Between 200 and 300 Bridgewater-Raritan High School students walked to the side lawn of the building at 10 a.m. Wednesday with the goal of remembering, honoring and making their own voices heard.
On the one-month anniversary of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, and just three days after their first March For Our Lives down Garretson Road, BRHS students joined with students from around the country for National School Walk-Out Day, an event encouraged by the Women’s March Youth Empower for students, teachers, parents and allies wanting to support new gun control-related legislation.
The students at BRHS, some carrying signs and others just wanting to show their support, listened to senior Saniya Saxena read the names of the Parkland victims, followed by a moment of silence in their honor.
Freshman class council president Justin Hawthorne gave a rousing speech about the national movement, and why it is so important that it is coming from the students themselves, citing this as being part of a “teen revolution.”
“I would say that the walk out today was definitely a success,” said senior class council president Julia Brickfield. “I’d estimate that we had approximately 300 to 350 kids who walked out, many of whom had posters with them. Although that isn’t a large amount compared to the overall student population, it was still incredibly encouraging to see so many people committed and dedicated to speaking up for what they believe in.”
Freshman Sia Limaye said the students who participated in the walk out were very supportive of the movement, and quiet and polite during the speeches.
“The speeches that were given were very well thought out and powerful, and I could see that they were all very passionate about what they were saying,” she said.
Brickfield spoke to her peers about the importance of being politically involved outside of the walk-out itself. She said it is important to vote and to encourage family members to go to the polls in November.
“I know for many of these students, this walk out was their first foray into politics and protesting, so I really hope they felt it was a positive experience and that they continue to get involved in their community, especially given that we have a really important election coming up this November,” she said.
Sophomore Madison Dawson said many of the students were nervous about security and the possibility of disciplinary action if they participated.
BRHS principal Mark Morrell had previously sent out a letter to parents saying that there would be extra police presence during the walk out, and that students who did not return to class immediately following the walk out could be subject to disciplinary action, while also citing that teachers would not be walking out and students would be required to make up any work missed.
“But I’m glad I participated,” Dawson said. “The speeches were inspiring, and it was important to me to stand with the students, not only at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, but across the country.”
Brickfield said she encouraged students, at the end of the walk out, to call Rep. Leonard Lance and tell him why they walked out, and what they hope to see him do as the elected representative.
“Some students were able to get through and speak to someone, but many received a busy signal because of how many students were calling the number at the same time,” she said.