Nearly as many students walked out of class in Bayonne as ran for their lives a month ago on March 14 at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida where 17 students and staff were killed in a mass shooting. The walkout lasted for 17 minutes – one for every life lost that day.
“We want change, we want change,” chanted a member of the Bayonne High School Student Council through a loud speaker. “Enough is enough.”
Students at Bayonne High School, who experienced a school closing and a day of heightened security as a result of social media posts threatening to “shoot up” the school, started the walkout with a series of talks from students and staff. The walk started at Veterans Stadium and proceeded around the perimeter of the school along Avenue A.
“Most of all, I’m a huge advocate for school spirit,” said Natallya Teixeira, who helped coordinate the walkout demonstration and shouted her message through a loud speaker. Other students in the city and across the country were in the spirit of protest as millions of students have called for further gun regulations.
Teixeira, however, said that she would feel safer with more and better teacher training and restrictions on who can and cannot own a gun.
“I feel that guns are not the problem but what security is there,” she said.“You don’t need the National Guard in here. We just need to be ready for anything. And not everybody should be a gun-holder.”
Other students have less faith that parents, educators, and public safety officials can prevent mass shootings from happening.
“It’s scary that anyone can walk in with a gun and shoot us,” said Angela Veger, a freshman at Bayonne High School. “We shouldn’t feel this way. School should be a safe place.”
“It’s scary that anyone can walk in with a gun and shoot us.” – Angela Veger
Stats on shootings
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a consistently low risk of experiencing a mass shooting. That risk is even lower in NJ, where massacre-capable weapons are much more difficult to obtain than in other states. And for at least two decades, Americans have been more likely to use a gun for suicide than homicide, according to the data.
Most students agree that regulations on guns are out of their power. That’s part of the reason they feel the need to demonstrate. When something is out of their power, students begin to look at things they can control.
“We can’t do a lot. We can protest peacefully,” said Veger. “We can reach out to others for solidarity.”
“We need a more caring culture here,” Teixera said.
The Bayonne High School student council facilitated the March 14 demonstration and plans to travel to Washington D.C. on April 24 for a nationwide protest against gun violence called “March for Our Lives.”
On March 14, Marist High School demonstrated indoors.
As we went to press, a 17-year-old Delaware student was killed by police after injured two other students with a handgun at his high school in St. Mary’s County, Delaware, according to Delaware Public Media. A school resource officer reportedly exchanged shots with the student to no avail. The school district received social media threats last month. The incident is still under investigation.
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at email@example.com.