By Alessandra Colella
To All Teachers:
About two weeks ago, almost three-fourths of our high school student body walked out of class at 10:00 am for 17 minutes to honor each victim of the Parkland shooting and speak out about gun safety and reform. We believed in the cause, took action, and stood outside while thousands of schools across the country did the same.
First off, I would like to thank you—the teachers. Thank you for supporting us and thank you for inspiring us to dream big and move mountains. This incredible movement has been led by us, and we thank you for giving us the platform to create change. Other schools across the nation have penalized students for walking out, but at Byram we are lucky. We are lucky to have teachers who teach us that if you believe in something, hard work will allow you to achieve it. On Wednesday the 14th, you allowed us to make history.
Time and time again the world has painfully watched as mass shootings plague the United States of America. Typically, after a shooting, news stations cover the event for a couple days. They often interview senators, leaders of the NRA, and the people who lost loved ones. If we are lucky, the problem gets debated in Congress, but time and time again, the conversations are circuitous, ending in no change. The discussion is put off until another 20 people are killed at the hand of an automatic weapon in a movie theater, a concert, or, like what happened in Parkland, Florida, a school. However, this time, it will not fade away. We will be loud. We will be heard.
Since January, there have been 17 school shootings, with the most recent at Great Mills High School in Maryland just last Tuesday.
A school is a sacred place. All of you have chosen to come back to school each day throughout your whole life. As a teacher, you should not have to feel threatened in your workplace. You didn’t have to choose this occupation, but you did. From my understanding, you teach for the moments when the information clicks with a struggling student or the times when a student asks a meaningful question out of pure interest. Every day you choose to come to school to teach us to be the leaders of our generation and instill within us the knowledge we need to do so. You chose us and now we choose you.
Many of you were not able to walk out and watch your passionate and talented students speak to represent our high school and the movement. This is likely because you were not allowed to leave the classroom if every student did not walk out. In school, you certainly have limitations in the expression of your opinions. While we can infer, we have no idea what you believe. Regardless, while we do walk out for ourselves and for our safety, we walk for you. As students, we are not the only people that occupy the school and we are not the only victims, you are too. Teachers like Scott Beigel, Aaron Feis, and Chris Hixon, saved their students. They died so students could live.
You all did not choose this job because you wanted to be our security guard. You did not sign up to have a firearm locked in your desk in the case of a school threat. It is completely unacceptable and unreasonable to expect you to learn how to use a gun and keep it in your classroom. This is NOT in your job descriptions. You chose this job to nurture our minds, to inspire us, and to push us further than we thought we could ever go. Now, many students do not feel safe coming to school each day. How can you teach us if we are not comfortable in the environment we are in? The answer is you can’t.
It is imperative that students feel safe and comfortable in every school across America. We can no longer sit around and wait for something to happen. The time is now.
Thank you for inspiring us every day. Thank you for teaching us that it is okay to stand up for what we believe in. This movement is certainly pioneered by us students, but never underestimate the critical role you are playing in it.
We walk out for ourselves, but we walk out for you too. It’s time to protect students AND teachers, NOT guns.
Alessandra Colella, BHHS Students, and students around America