WEST CALDWELL, NJ — James Caldwell High School (JCHS) students focused on honoring the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, highlighting the common goal of school safety and giving students an opportunity to have their voices heard when they participated in the National Student Walkout on Wednesday morning.
Throughout the planning phases, the students were in constant conversation with the administration. According to Superintendent of Schools James Heinegg, the district agreed that it was fitting and appropriate to honor the victims from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School and that the administration and the students have a common interest in school safety.
“Our students and our school staff recognize that, as citizens of a democracy, our students want to have their voices heard, and they wish to do so in constructive, respectful ways,” he said. “Our students and our school staff also recognize that students have different views about these matters, so no students will be forced to accept any particular view.”
According to the student organizers, the JCHS school walkout was not a “protest in favor of any kind of extreme viewpoint,” a “rally” or “mandatory,” although they hoped a majority of the student body would support this step toward making schools safer places.
“Some assume the walkout is in support of a fully restrictive gun ban,” the organizers wrote in their walkout pamphlet. “Although gun sense is at the forefront of this issue, there are many different levels of gun restriction, and many methods to improve school security. We respect that range of opinions.”
They also said that this was not considered a rally, but rather a “respectful understanding that mass shootings in American schools are unacceptable and action must be take to mitigate the problem.”
In order not to deter students who were anxious about an incident occurring from participating and to encourage as many students to participate as possible, the organizers chose to host the event in the school’s auditorium.
“To walk out is to be in favor of feeling safe at school, of friends and family feeling safe at school, and of students in all 50 states feeling safe at school,” the parent pamphlet reads. “To walk out is to be in favor of action…There are many improvements that can be made. Bottom line, support means to be in favor of walking through the doors of JCHS every morning and feeling a sense of security.”
The event lasted for 17 minutes nationwide in remembrance of the 17 Parkland victims.
All photos were provided by JCHS Vice Principal John Bertollo.