At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Ashland students left their classrooms for a 17-minute commemoration of the students and staff killed by a gunman in Parkland, Florida, one month before. Students at the high school, middle school, Siskiyou School and Southern Oregon University joined students across the country.
More than 3,000 demonstrations took place in all 50 states, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing organizers who said participants numbered at least 1 million.
Ashland High School students had the support of administrators, who arranged for an assembly in the gym. Students elsewhere also had staff support, but not everywhere. Some districts threatened suspensions if students walked out. In rural Arkansas, one school reportedly will administer “swats” to three students who walked out of class in defiance of a school order. The students were give the choice of two punishments and chose corporal punishment, the mother of one announced on Twitter.
Wednesday’s walkouts were only the beginning of what many are comparing to student protests of the Vietnam War. Students are motivated to demand action to address gun violence in their schools and communities.
Critics are calling the students misguided, or worse, manipulated by “the left” as a way to further a gun-control agenda. From where we sit, we don’t see manipulation. And we don’t see this movement slowing down.
A week from Saturday, a March for our Lives is planned in Washington, D.C., and local versions are scheduled elsewhere, including Medford. If elected leaders are smart, they will be paying attention.