I have heard some folks ask why the students walked out of schools on Wednesday.
Life presents tough questions sometimes.
This is not one.
These kids walked out to save their own lives.
And I'm proud of them, inspired by them.
Many Cumberland County school students held a protest or vigil as part of the National School Walkout, but the school system said in a news release it was "uncertain" how many schools took part. The children would not have faced discipline if they followed the Student Code of Conduct, the release said.
At 10 a.m., the students were given time and space to block off 17 minutes to remember the 17 people shot and killed on Valentine’s Day at a school in Parkland, Florida.
Lauren Alecca, a senior at Massey Hill Classical High School, said she thought it was important to participate in the protest because school shootings were a “recurring problem.”
“It is time for our voices to be heard,” she said. “It is time for laws to start changing.”
At Massey Hill, the protest was mostly silent.
Students walked out into the yard behind the school, which faces Camden Road. Teachers and staff members were on hand to help keep the students safe, according to Principal Pamela Adams-Watkins. The Fayetteville Police Department posted officers in cruisers in front of the school on Southern Avenue and on Camden Road.
Several students faced their classmates and held pictures of the victims of the Parkland shooting, which took the lives of 14 students and three adults. The signs said, “This minute is for” followed by the victim’s name and age.
Lauren said: “This gave all of us students a chance to take a stand while honoring these 17 victims at the same time. As I was standing there, taking in every minute of the names being called, it made me feel remorseful for the victims and their families.
“It was a beautiful thing to stand outside in silence and remember these people.”
Survivors of the Parkland shooting, their families and other activists have pressed for new legislation to restrict guns. Last week, the conservative Florida legislature passed its first gun-control bill in 20 years. The state is reeling in the wake of mass shootings in the past few years that have taken 71 lives.
Among other things, the new law raises the age to purchase guns from 18 to 21; creates a waiting period to purchase guns; bans “bump stocks” that make it easier to convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones; and authorizes arming of certain school personnel. It was a bill opposed by the National Rifle Association, a group not accustomed to legislative losses.
Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bipartisan legislation surrounded by family members of the Parkland victims.
“You helped change our state,” he said. “You made a difference. You should be proud."
In Cumberland County, the school system is planning to start a “school angel” program that puts volunteers at schools to act as eyes and ears — though they will not serve in a security capacity.
Meanwhile, people expecting or hoping the teenagers to drift off to their iPhones or college plans and forget this issue have a wake-up call coming.
In just one month since Parkland, the teenagers have already moved the conversation on stopping mass shootings.
These kids walked out because the adults who are supposed to have all the answers have done little since Columbine. That tragedy, which started America’s modern era of mass shootings, will reach its 20th anniversary next spring.
This week, activists scattered on the Capitol lawn in Washington 7,000 pairs of shoes to illustrate the number of children who have died in gun violence since the 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I’m hoping that in the future things will change for the better,” Lauren says. “But it all starts here. We as people all have to work together as one to make the changes for our future.”
Columnist Myron B. Pitts can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3559.