Three students in Derby called for tougher gun regulations while students in Shelton avoided making policy recommendations during separate events marking Wednesday’s “National School Walkout.”
Click play on the YouTube player above to listen to commentary and clips from the students in Derby and Shelton, along with interviews with school officials from Derby.
Students all over the U.S. organized events at 10 a.m. March 14 to mark one month since of the mass murder of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
While the local “walkout” participants were anything but monolithic, the movement’s general goal is to end the mass shootings that seem to have become epidemic.
Three Shelton High School students — Julia Meyer, Angela Camara, and Tyler Massias — are also planning the “Shelton March For Our Lives” scheduled for 12:30 p.m. March 24 at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Shelton.
That event will include a rally with speakers and a march past Shelton City Hall, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Students in Ansonia and Seymour also held student-organized events Wednesday, too.
About 50 to 60 of Derby High school’s 365 students attended a voluntary, 18-minute assembly in the Derby High School auditorium.
Coincidentally, Derby Middle School across the street was put into a brief “lockdown” during the assembly while police reviewed a threat made on social media against an individual middle school student.
The two speakers in Derby kept the focus on people impacted the most in school shooting — the school community.
“I want everyone to know that I am heartbroken and deeply saddened about the school shootings that have been occurring in the U.S.,” said Xavier Ibrahim, a 16-year-old Derby High School junior.
Xavier said school shootings have “become a new norm” and that the public is becoming desensitized to the violence.
Click the play button above or below to listen to Xavier in his own voice.
“Who do we blame for this? Is it mental illness, or the lack of love between communities, or is it the gun laws?” he asked.
Xavier said getting a driver’s license involved a long and multi-step process. The same should happen when someone tries to buy an assault rifle, the student said.
“These laws need to be changed and this nonsense has to be stopped,” he said.
After the Derby assembly, a reporter asked Xavier about negative comments made this week about the national walkout on the Valley Indy’s Facebook page, such as the one by Joe Teodosio:
“Kids who were eating Tide Pods last week now think they’re experts on policy and the Bill of Rights,” Teodosio posted.
Xavier asked the public to at least listen to students before passing judgement.
“We just want to come to school to learn, not to die,” Xavier said. “We’re not looking to take away anyone’s guns, but we want to be safe.”
Ambarlyn Angeletti, 16, said her generation has grown up in the school-shooting era. She was also one of the student speakers in Derby.
“We’ve grown used to this — and we can’t grow used to this. We need to go to Congress and tell them that we need to put a stop to school shootings. We need to make guns harder to get,” she told The Valley Indy.
“This shouldn’t be normal,” student Jasmine Abbott said.
Click the play button above to hear more from the students, and from the readers of the Valley Indy’s Facebook page.
Derby High School English teacher Johnathan Mercado is also the Valley coordinator of the Human Relations Club, a student organization.
He said if the students in the auditorium agreed with Xavier and Amberlyn, it’s possible to do more than just listen. He made lists available of elected officials in Connecticut and beyond, and urged the students to continuously write the federally-elected officials who oppose tougher gun laws.
iPads were also on hand in case any of the students wanted to register to vote. About 20 of the 50 to 60 students in the audience were already 18.
The assembly also opened the floor to any student who wanted to share an opinion, but no other students shared opinions.
After the assembly, The Valley Indy asked Derby Superintendent Matthew Conway about how the school balanced the various views in hot-button political issues such as gun control.
“Our role in our schools is to prepare our kids to be adults,” Conway said. “What better opportunity than to do that in an environment where we can provide support for that practice? Regardless of one’s particular view on an identified issue, it’s more about providing opportunity for coaching and support.”
Click the play button above to hear more on the issue from Conway.
In Shelton the student council organized an explicitly nonpolitical event by design.
About 300 of the school’s roughly 1,5000 students walked out of the school and gathered in front of the main doors for 17 minutes.
They observed a minute’s silence for each victim of last month’s shooting and placed flowers in a vase in their memory.
Afterward many of them signed a banner that was sent to the Florida school in a show of solidarity.
Police and school administrators, who took part in helping to plan the event, were also present, but did not speak at the event and deferred afterward to the students who took the lead in organizing it.
Alexis Klimaszewski, a senior and the president of the student council, said the purpose of the event was a memorial to the people killed in last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and not to express support for any one solution to the question of how to stop further violence.
“We wanted our students to have the opportunity to participate in this national walkout, but as a school we decided rather than make a political statement, to instead honor the lives affected by this strategy,” she said.
In an interview after the event, Klimaszewski said community leaders should work together to put an end to school violence.
“I think that we need to strive to make our society safer as a whole, whatever needs to be done to do that, whether it’s the mental health issue, whether it is guns,” Klimaszewski said. “The ultimate goal is students should not feel unsafe in school. I should not feel unsafe going into college.”
“All of our leaders, all of our adults should try to work together to try to figure that out,” Klimaszewski said.
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