JACKSON, WY– While Jackson Hole Middle School was on a two-hour delayed start thanks to a bomb threat made Tuesday night, an estimated 100 Jackson Hole High School students joined students all over the world in a school walkout.
The national walkout is one of three demonstrations planned in response to the February 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people. At 10 am at schools across the country, students walked out for 17 mintues, one minute for each Parkland victim. At Jackson Hole High School, the demands were clear: students called upon Wyoming legislators to prioritize student safety.
“We call on you, our representatives, to pass tangible legislation to ensure that deadly assault weapons never end up in the hands of mass shooters,” read a pamphlet students distributed as a script to use when calling representatives. “We ask Congress to take meaningful action to keep us safe and address the public health crisis of gun violence. We want you to pay attention and take note: Many of us will vote this November and many others will join in 2020.”
Jackson Hole High School had anticiapted a potential walkout, but in light of the bomb threat at the middle school, asked students to keep their demonstration inside. Students were allowed to gather in the gym, where they signed a poster demanding legislative action.
They walked out anyway. A small group lead the charge, and soon, all 100-plus students followed. They walked through the high school halls, out the back door by the bus stops, and onto the turf, where they gathered and re-emphasized their mission.
“Hopeully our representatives will pay attention to what we’re doing,” junior Rosalie Daval shouted.
It was rebellious, as most demostrations are, but Teton County School District co-superintendent Jeff Daugherty said it was an “appropriate amount of rebellion.” Students stayed on school property. They were safe. He wasn’t about to stop them.
Aaron Trauner reminded students that one demonstration would not necessarily have an impact. If they wanted change, he said, they would have to keep asking for it.
“This is not where our fight ends,” Trauner shouted.
Gun-related legislation is a hot topic, espeically in Wyoming, and seems to re-ignite after every mass shooting. Those staunchly in support of the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms” criticize those in favor of gun control for politicizing tragedy. On the other side, people argue that gun control legislation is an easy fix to a national crisis. But typically, the hype dies down shortly after the incident, until the next mass shooting.
But a month after the Parkland shooting, the conversation is still going strong. Stoneman Douglass High School students who survived the shooting have taken to social and mainstream media to demand change, and their message has spread to schools across the country, including Jackson.
“Students are going be the people who change things, because it impacts us the most and we have the most passion about it,” said high school sophomore Heather Budge. “If anybody is to change something, it’s going to be students, because we are the next generation.”
Sophomore America Martinez said she was demonstrating to fight for her safety. “As a student and as a person, I value my safety,” she said. “I want wherever I go to be safe, where I know I’m not in danger.” Martinez thinks stricter gun laws are an important step.
“Walking out to me represents fighting against my life being in danger because of guns,” she said.
Khalen Wilson remembers Sandy Hook. She was in fifth grade. Now, in 10th grade, she feels like things have only gotten worse. “We should stopped it with Sandy Hook,” she said.
All three students said they would likely follow up with more action after the walkout, but hope they can do it together. Political activism is intimidating, but solidarity helps.
“I feel like sometimes it’s hard to stand for something as controversial or as difficult as this topic, so when I stand with others it just empowers me to want to write letters,” Martinez said. “I want to represent our voices.”