Students withstand freezing weather to protest gun violence

Students at Theodore Roosevelt High School stand outside as part of a national school walk out March 14 in response to gun violence and in remembrance of those killed in Parkland, FL.

Austin Mariasy

Hundreds of students at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent participated in a walkout along with other schools across the country Wednesday.

The demonstration was in response to a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and staff.

The Theodore Roosevelt school administration changed the class schedule for the day to accommodate the walkout. Slightly before 10 a.m., about 300 students walked out of the building and stood behind the school. The students led chants, handed out flyers to each other and held a moment of silence for the victims.

Senior Tucker LaBelle helped engage students to participate in the event.  

“As an athlete, I have more of a voice than other people, and I decided to use my voice for change,” LaBelle said.

He hopes to see change, such as an increase in school security and a change in culture that will allow for metal detectors in schools and more resource officers in the buildings.

“There is a stigma against metal detectors in the school because those schools are looked at as ‘bad schools,’” he said.

Senior Lily Young participated in the event and was overwhelmed by the number of people involved. The experience made her rethink a lot of issues, including school safety.

“If I could describe this event in one word, I would say it was eye-opening,” Young said.

Young raised the issue about how the number of entrances to school could make it easier for some to get into the building.

Principal Dennis Love made the decision to support the walkout and assist in any way possible. He said he made the decision because the safety of his students is his number one priority and the best way to keep his students safe is to support them.

The event was planned by students with some help from the administration. The school reached out to the Kent Police Department for security and received a strong presence.

Lt. Mike Lewis of the KPD said the decision to have the walkout in the back of the school was made by the administration, along with the police department, with the safety of the students as the number one priority.

“We have a school resource officer and we are always in contact with Kent City Schools,” Lewis said.

The event was met with very little backlash, although Love received some complaints.

“It’s about civil disobedience,” Love said. “People thought that we should honor the fact that (the students) are in school and not do something like this during school hours.”

Students gathered in the auditorium after the walkout ended, where Love addressed safety and gave students a chance for their voices to be heard. The school choir “ACEs” sang a mashup of two songs, and more students recited quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.  

After the assembly, student council members handed out orange ribbons in the cafeteria and urged classmates to sign a pledge requiring the use of only the main entrance.

“I think the scary thing with what happened in Florida was, that was a safe school, and they had a resource office but schools are such a soft target,” Love said. “We have thousands of kids leaving the school after 2:45 (p.m.) and thousands coming in each morning.”

LaBelle has a positive outlook on the future and is confident that change can happen.

“We, as the next generation, are the change,” LaBelle said.

Austin Mariasy is the diversity reporter. Contact him at [email protected].