ETHS students plan walkout for gun control March 14


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Students at Evanston Township High School protest President Donald Trump’s inauguration last winter. ETHS students are planning a walkout in support of gun control on March 14.

Christopher Vazquez, Assistant Video Editor

When news first broke of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Eric Witherspoon had tears streaming down his face. The Evanston Township High School superintendent said that as an educator, hearing of such shootings “just breaks my heart.”

“I look into the eyes of these young people every day,” Witherspoon said. “These are and were truly innocent victims, and to think that something as horrendous as this can happen in any school anywhere is absolutely tragic and absolutely heartbreaking.”

In response to the shooting, ETHS students will participate in a nationwide student walkout on March 14 to advocate for stricter gun control legislation.

ETHS Student Senate has taken charge of organizing the walkout. Student Senate president Emma Stein said the idea for the demonstration originated from a social media post by the organizers of the national Women’s March calling for a March 14 walkout.

Stein said she wanted the Senate to respond to that call.

“It’s a good feeling just to take charge and to feel like you’re actually doing something to change the way our country functions,” Stein said. “To reclaim our voices and our worth and safety as students, it’s a really cool feeling.”

ETHS junior Trinity Collins, who plans to participate in the walkout, said she has drawn inspiration from watching other teenage gun control advocates across the nation. Collins said that by participating in the walkout with other ETHS students, she hopes to demonstrate the student body’s unity on the issue.

“As a high school student, I’ve been told I can’t make change or we’re too young to do anything,” Collins said, “But seeing these young activists has been great to witness.”

The Student Senate is currently discussing programming and logistics for the walkout with other student groups, the student body and the administration, Stein said. Students are planning to hold the demonstration at Lazier Field, Witherspoon said.

Witherspoon said the school is planning to coordinate with Evanston Police Department to direct traffic during the walkout. He added that students may receive unexcused absences, as per school policy, but the administration will not penalize students for participating in the demonstration.

“We don’t punish our students for free expression,” Witherspoon said. “We understand that this is a first amendment right that our students have.”

As student activists continue to exercise that free expression, Stein said she hopes to memorialize the lives of gun violence victims through the walkout. Additionally, she said she hopes to influence policymakers as they draft gun control legislation.

“Most ETHS students, along with myself, would like to see common sense gun laws in place, whether that be universal background checks or making it as difficult as possible to obtain a semi-automatic weapon,” Stein said. “The ultimate goal is to not see our peers being murdered in school, or in the streets near school.”

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