Students at Coeur d’Alene High School joined thousands across the nation with a walkout protesting gun violence on March 14 at 10 a.m. The event coincided with the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Roughly 150 students gathered in Jordan Court to listen to speeches given by organizers Ashley Romanowski and Annika Silk, who both plan to attend NIC after graduation, pursuing degrees in political science and microbiology, respectively.
“We want to show our government that something has to change,” Silk said. “Enough is enough.”
While 17 minutes were originally allotted for the walkout, Coeur d’Alene High School students were given half an hour to complete their tasks. After the speech, students were given the opportunity to fill out voter registration cards and write letters to Congress.
Perceived inaction on the part of Congress concerning gun violence prompted students to organize nationwide. Romanowski said she heard about the movement through social media and decided to plan an event in Coeur d’Alene.
District 271 and the high school administration were supportive of the demonstration. Superintendent Stan Olson said that the district recognizes the students’ constitutional rights for peaceful assembly and free expression.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with any student or student group to discuss appropriate ways to express their views while at school,” Olson said. “Our intent is to support their rights and ensure their safety.”
According to the organizers, the objective of the walkout was not to endorse a total ban on guns, but to bring attention to gun violence in schools and promote increased measures to prevent future school shootings. They want the government to require mental health evaluations and for schools to implement stronger anti-bullying policies.
“We want things like background checks that are universal across all states because right now, they’re federally required for places like Walmart, Cabela’s, North 40, but private dealers may or may not be required,” Romanowski said. “That way, we know everyone’s following the same law.”
A group of parents and retired teachers stood outside the school, live-streaming to Facebook and holding a sign showing their support for students. One of the supporters, Paula Meyling, said that she admired the students for taking control and using their voices. City of Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White was also in attendance.
Some students who joined in the walkout wore shirts that appeared to support the #WalkUp hashtag, which advocates the idea of “walking up” and engaging with students who appear to be bullied or troubled, rather than walking out.
A counter protest was held at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, where some gathered to show their support for the Second Amendment.
“I think that it’s great that the kids are exercising their rights on both sides,” said CHS graduate Galen Jones. “I’m really proud of the school district for allowing them to do this.”