Prince William, Fauquier Students Lead Anti-School Violence Protests

| March 15, 2018 | 0 Comments | Education

Students gather on the football field for the March 14, 2018 student walkout against school gun violence. (Courtesy of SOS-Nova.)

Prince William and Fauquier County students participated in Wednesday’s walkout rallies against school gun violence. The national event was organized in honor of the Parkland students who were killed by an active shooter on Feb. 14.

PWCS Superintendent, Dr. Steven Walts, told parents students would not be penalized for participating, and advised principals to work with students. Consequently, a good number of students from around the county chose to participate in the walkouts.

At Patriot High School in Nokesville approximately 400 students walked to the football stadium at 10 a.m. as per direction from Megan Black, Olivia Mumma and Gavin Brown, the same seniors who organizers the Feb. 21 walkout.

R-L: Olivia Mumma, Megan Black and Gavin Brown, lead organizers of the Patriot High School walkout stand with other participants. (Photo from SOS-Nova Twitter account.)

The three organizers read speeches. Seventeen students read the names and ages of students and teachers who died at Stoneman Douglas High School last month.

“We’ve seen it all before. Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Columbine, or own school almost had a school shooting when we were all freshman in 2014. Every time the public forgot. We forgot the names of the victims, we forgot their stories and their families, and we forgot the root of the problem. The fight for respectable and sensible gun control measures has returned and this time we plan to fight. No longer can we sit here let another student die at the hands of a mass shooter.”– Olivia Mumma, 12th grade, Patriot High School 

Bringing awareness to school violence was highly personal to Patriot students. Seniors went into lockdown their freshman when police believed an active shooter was on campus. It was a point Mumma made in her speech.

Patriot participants hold signs with messages about school gun violence. (Photo courtesy of SOS_Nova.)

“I could see the moment when that clicked in their heads, and they said ‘that could have been us,” said Mumma.

And while some see the walkout as controversial, they said they intended the event to unite people rather than divide them.

“We tried to tell as many people as possible: you are honoring the victims of Parkland. As a walkout, we’re talking about change in general,” Black said, adding “I think you can both be pro 2nd amendment and pro gun control.”

Personally, the two girls said want to see concrete changes to gun laws such as raising the age to purchase certain guns, reinstating the assault riffle ban and banning bump stocks. They plan to march on Washington and contact elected officials to enact change. They are also planning other political activities, including something on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

At Marsteller Middle School in Bristow students also held a walkout organized by two eight grade students: Leah Diepenbrock and Anya Barrett. Approximately 200 students walked out at 10 a.m. and met at the flagpole on the school’s front lawn.

The girls held the event to honor the Parkland students and bring awareness to school violence.

Marsteller students gather around the flag for the March 14 walkout. (Photo courtesy of Anya Barrett.)

“We wanted to unite the school to make sure that this never happens again. It could be any of us at any time who is affected by it,” Deipenbrock said.

“I’ve spoken to students all around the county who all say the same thing. They are scared. Just in the last week in Prince William County there were threats made to schools here…We must realize that just because we are kids does not mean we are to young to have a voice. We must speak up for change! We all need to work together to find a solution.” – Anya Barrett, 8th grade, Marsteller Middle School

They called for “some common sense gun control,” and wanted to promote “gun violence awareness.”

“A lot of people asked me why I did it,” Diepenbrock. “A couple of [students] were very critical but it doesn’t really matter. People’s opinions should be respected and acted upon if enough people believe in them.”

Sara Massei addresses the crowd at the Kettle Run High School Walkout. (Courtesy of Sara Masseir)

Walkout rallies took place within Fauquier County Public Schools as well. Kettle Run, Fauquier and Liberty high schools coordinated walkouts with student council presidents and senior class presidents as the lead organizers.

At 10 a.m., approximately 300 Kettle Run students walked out to the football stadium for the Wednesday Walkout.

Seventeen students spoke, each reading a short bio on one of the victims. Kettle Run organizer Sara Massei said she felt it was important “so that we can remember their names, and their stories and humanize them a little bit.”

“Today, we use our voices to protest the plague of gun violence that has so rapidly swept across this country. We use them to protest the loss of innocent lives in a place that should be safe. We use them to protest the insanity that we’re living in; we’re doing the same thing over and over with no change and expecting different results.” – Sara Massei, 12th grade, Kettle Run High School 

Massei called it an “anti-violence rally,” noting the bipartisan nature of the cause. “All of us recognize that something was terribly wrong and we need to change it,” she said

Massei thanked principal Meghan Brill for her “amazing in supporting us and facilitating it,” and thanked all the principals, school board and board of county supervisors for their support. She continues to advocate for school safety in Fauquier County.

Sara Massei speaks to the walkout participants at Kettle Run High School in Nokesville. (Photo courtesy of Sara Massei.)

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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