Proactive approach better than protests

Published 8:31 am Thursday, March 15, 2018

Thousands of students across the U.S., including about 100 from George Rogers Clark High School, walked out of school Wednesday in protest.

The day marked National Student Walkout Day, the latest in a series of protests from students expressing concern and outrage over recent school shootings. This particular protest was in response to the school massacre in Parkland, Florida. At 10 a.m. Wednesday, students stood up, walked out and protested, demanding stricter gun laws and safer schools for 17 minutes, then returned to class.

The 17 minutes were in honor of the 14 students and three teachers who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

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It is encouraging to see the younger generation stand up for their beliefs, to demand safety for themselves, their teachers and their classmates and to make a show of solidarity, but it is likely little was accomplished by this week’s walkouts.

While protest is our right as American citizens, there are more proactive approaches students, teachers and the community can take to facilitate change.

In addition to protesting for 17 minutes, we encourage students to take the next steps if this is a cause that is important to them.

Write 17 letters to elected officials asking them to fight for stronger gun laws, more mental health resources in schools, more funding for school security, more training for school employees, etc.

Donate $17 to a charity that offers mentoring, counseling or other mental health resources to students.

Give 17 afternoons of your time tutoring or mentoring younger students and take extra time to talk to them about their problems.

Talk to 17 students who you would not typically befriend. Maybe that is the girl who sits alone at lunch every day, or the kid in your biology class who acts out. Stand up for the ones who are bullied.

Write letters to three teachers thanking them for what they do each day to provide a safe learning environment. Ask them what you can do as a student to help.

The potential benefits of these acts far outweigh those of a one-day protest. Thankfully the local protest did not create an enormous disruption, but that has not been the case nationwide.

Students can learn valuable lessons about their right to have their voice heard. But they can make even more valuable contributions in the fight for safer schools.

Acts of protest and solidarity are important. But don’t let it stop there. Take action at your school, among your friends and in your community.

Demand change. And then be the change.