MONTVILLE, NJ - As the spirit of #Enough spread throughout the nation today, high school students at Montville Township High School organized their own walkout to commemorate those who have fallen at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The student body, dressed in black to mourn the victims and orange ribbons for protesting gun violence, gathered at the outdoor steps and in the gym to stand up to gun violence as well as to join in the release of 17 balloons in honor of the fallen in Parkland.
Prior to the walkout, much debate occurred over the concerns of mass amounts of students walking out of the building. Although the students fully intended on proceeding outside, administration proposed an alternative to hold the walkout in the school gyms with the safety of the students and staff in mind. However, in a meeting held between Principal Douglas Sanford, Assistant Vice Principals, school counselors, class advisors and student leaders, a consensus was reached to offer both options in an effort to allow students to express themselves in whichever way they best believed suited the cause. Furthermore, school administration also decided to take further steps in promoting student expression by altering the daily class schedule in order for students to participate without fear of disciplinary punishment.
“I was really happy that the administration agreed to do that for us and accommodate us going outside,” senior Abigail Hammel said. “I think it was powerful to be outside together.”
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Today at 10 a.m., Student Activities Council (SAC) President Daniel Lee led the outdoor movement in the forefront of a sea of black, stating, “We hope our act of walking-out, not only in this school, but nationally, may spark the conversation in this country that something must be done. We, students, can no longer sit around and allow fear to rule over how we want to act, how we choose to conduct ourselves, how we choose to live our lives.”
After a short biography for each victim and a moment of silence, SAC member Colin Noone released the balloons, which flew into the sky—after subsequently getting entangled in tree branches.
“Bad placement,” Lee stated.
The walkout was also held in the main gym, which was led by three other members of the SAC—Liam Cassidy, Max Baresich and Malik Amer. However, in the indoor protest, one student, Larisa Prince, read an original poem titled “Instead,” voicing her opinions about gun violence and advocating for greater safety within every school environment. (See Prince’s full poem below and Click here for full video of the indoor walkout, which was streamed live by the school district on Facebook.)
Although this event had only taken a total of 17 minutes, two senior students, Hammel and Nicole Villamil, continued afterwards to encourage others to voice their viewpoints by pre-registering to vote. Simply printing out forms and distributing them to those interested, the duo expressed their support of the walkout, while also discussing the importance and impact of students’ ability to have a say in government.
Villamil said, “I think that a lot of young people don’t know enough about the government and politics, how to vote, when to vote, and all this stuff, and they just need to be more aware. This is the first step.”
Below is Larisa Prince’s poem:
We go to school to be murdered.
Shot dead where we stand.
Tears are filling mountain valleys
Gunshots are ringing out for centuries.
We all tried to run and hide
Under desks and over shelves.
But the bullets keep on raining
As children scream, bleed, and die.
We were focusing on the lecture
Or the test we had stressed over.
We said, "Goodbye, I love you," to parents at home
Instead we never see them again.
We made plans for the night to go out with friends
Or play our sports maybe go to band.
Had college lined up for years to come
Instead hopes and dreams for futures are undone.
We go to school to be killed instead
By the gun that America has refused to ban.
We go to school to be murdered instead
Our bodies lie limp even though we ran.
We go to school to die instead
Our life ending before it even began.
Parents have lost their children.
Children have lost best friends.
Families have been ripped apart
And left ruptured in despair.
Hearts and prayers will not save us
Make your voice heard
For those who are dead
And no longer can.
Mountains of bodies pile on one another.
Rivers of blood flowing through cracks and grooves.
A waterfall of tears from the slowly dying keeps seeping through.
A thunderstorm of bullets from the gun’s vicious metal barrel
Pierces the chests of children who instead
Lie unresponsive in their school.
The gun will annihilate us.
And in our blood