Schools, staff and students throughout the country acknowledged the National Student Walkout demonstration held on Wednesday, March 14 at 10 a.m. in different ways due to the violence that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Riverbank Unified School District students at Riverbank High School and Cardozo Middle School organized events that allowed students to discuss the situation and remember those that lost their lives in Parkland.
RHS had an already scheduled late start on March 14 and instead of students going to their first period class they headed to the Ray Fauria Gym for an assembly presented by the Leadership class. The conversation about the walkout was swirling around social media and spread to the hallways. Principal Dr. Sean Richey, Leadership Advisor Lezlie Acker, and the leadership class discussed the best way to move forward to allow the students to be involved.
“We thought as a school if students want to be involved let’s give them a venue to do it,” said Richey. “I sat with the leadership class and essentially we just talked about what were their goals and what did they want to accomplish with it and they said that they wanted to inform.”
The presentation had slides with information about gun violence, possible causes like mental health and bullying, what to do if that happens at their school, and what to do if someone needs help. There were numbers shared for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and websites to visit like change.org and www.sandyhookpromise.org.
“Ms. Acker really worked hard with them (leadership students) to create a slideshow that was informative and fair … as a school we don’t take sides but we can say that we decry school violence,” added Richey. “We decry school shootings and gun violence in schools and schools should be a safe place and I think that really came across with the students today. I think it came across very clearly.”
After the presentation students had the choice to go to class or to stay in the gym for 17 minutes of silence to honor the 17 shooting victims that lost their lives. Some students left at that time but the majority of students stayed in the gym in silence as the power point showed a picture of each one that lost their lives and a little bit about them.
“There are moments that I have been proud to be a principal and this is one of the proudest moments I have had of being a principal is to see the students step up and take leadership,” expressed Richey. “We get comments all the time about what a great student body we have and what great kids we have here. I think this just demonstrates again our students get it. There are things in life that are bigger than them.”
Principal Kevin Bizzini at Cardozo Middle School had the entire school meet in the gym for a moment of silence in honor of the Parkland victims.
“I then explained that in most instances of school violence, from the most tragic to the site level issues, usually someone knows something in advance of the event,” said Bizzini. “We talked about the pledge, ‘If You Know Something, Say Something.’ I challenged every student not to dismiss any information that might prevent any type of violence or harassment and to let school officials know.”
There were no disruptions during the day and no students that walked off campus or out of class.
“The students did a great job and each was wearing an orange ribbon to memorialize the 17 victims of the Florida shooting,” added Bizzini. “My staff was amazing, they supported the events and several teachers supervised the campus giving up their break and lunch period.”
The Leadership class at Cardozo created postcards so students could write notes to students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This week they will send 350 cards to Parkland, Florida.
“I am inspired by students that are passionate about a cause and set out to make meaningful change,” expressed Bizzini. “I believe this national event is truly about change and not the brilliant flash of a news story. If it takes the relentless demand of a million student voices to get someone to listen, then I applaud the students that stand arm in arm.”