About 50 students from three Jackson high schools walked out of class Friday morning in a continued demand for safe schools.
“I don’t need to be shot when I go to school,” said Lilly Duquette, a sophomore at Jackson Hole High School.
The nationwide walkout came on the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine, Colorado, in which 12 students and a teacher were killed. While most students walking Friday weren’t alive then, they said it marked the beginning of violence in schools — and that not of a lot has changed since to stop school shootings.
Walking from Town Square to Town Hall, students from Jackson Hole High School, Jackson Hole Community School and Journeys School of Teton Science Schools carried posters that said things like “Guns are easier to buy than my education” while they chanted “Protect kids, not guns.” They called for continued action and reaching across party lines.
“This is so much more than walking around yelling,” said Leila Sandlin, a junior at Journeys School. “The point of today, in my mind, is to call attention to this and make waves. We shouldn’t have to settle for growing up in a world that isn’t safe. We need to go above political parties and affiliations — this is about lives that are being lost.”
Sandlin and other students called Wyoming U.S. congressional representatives such as Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, asking them to support gun control legislation. While some can’t yet vote, those who are over the age of 18 said they’ll be making their feelings clear to politicians supported by the National Rifle Association when they go to the polls in November.
“At the end of the day, these people better be scared sh--less,” said Mary Muromcew, a freshman at Journeys School. “We’re voting them out.”
Many of the students said they grew up around guns and wanted to shed the notion that gun control means taking all guns away.
“Living here, we have a really interesting perspective,” said Avery Absolon, a junior at Journeys School. “Half the food my family eats is from hunting, and I’m still for gun control.”
The students said talking about school safety and gun control measures like background checks must be constant if anything is to change. Students staged a walkout on March 14 and roughly 250 community members joined the national March for Our Lives on March 24.
Getting the issue in people’s minds and keeping it present, Jackson Hole Community School senior Jackson Pond said, is vital. He doesn’t want to see the conversation fade only to reappear when more lives are lost.
“It’ll be two weeks, and then another school shooting happens,” Pond said. “We’re trying to break that vicious cycle.”
A student was wounded in a shooting at a Florida school on Friday.
Students said they felt varying levels of support from their schools, with Journeys students saying student activism there was supported.
Because the walkout was designed to go from 10 a.m. through the rest of the school day, some students had tough decisions to make. Would they go to Town Square and come back to take a test? Would they get zeros on assignments they missed? Could they be marked truant?
Jackson Hole High School Principal Scott Crisp and Vice Principal Dan Abraham sent an email to parents Thursday informing them of attendance policies.
“Jackson Hole High School prioritizes instructional time during our school day,” the email read. “Our teachers work hard to prepare and teach lessons, and we expect students to attend class. There are times throughout our day, such as morning break, lunch, and FLEX, where students have more choice and freedom about where they go. Students who participate in a walkout or protest during these more flexible times will not have any consequences. This assumes students are safe, respectful, responsible and do not leave school grounds. Missing class at any other times will result in consequences like any other tardy, unexcused absence, or truancy.”
Those who attended the protest felt that any consequences they might suffer would be worth it.
“It could have been us,” said Anushka Olvera, a sophomore at Journeys.
Sophomore Sara McWhirter chimed in: “That’s what scares me so much.”