Students at Grand Ledge High School join nationwide walkouts

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On March 14, 2018, roughly 200 Grand Ledge High School students participated in the national school walkout against gun violence.

Around 200 students in Grand Ledge High School walked out of their classes on March 14 to be involved in the nationwide #ENOUGH movement, honoring the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida school shooting and acting against gun violence.

Jonathan Shiflett, president of the Grand Ledge School Board, said the student walkout went “smoothly.”

Outside of Grand Ledge High School

“There really wasn’t any incident. I mean, it wasn’t something that we were actively encouraging or discouraging,” he said. “We just, you know, wanted to make sure that the kids were safe and that was it.”

The student walkout occurred weeks after Grand Ledge High School received a bomb threat that resulted in multiple evacuations and other precautions within the school district.

Shiflett said the bomb threat on Feb. 20, 2018 was investigated and was found to be a message written on a bathroom wall in the school.

“Every time you see something like that you have to take it seriously,” he said. “You know, we locked down, we brought in the dogs, swept the whole building. You know, I mean, especially in the modern climate we have to take every case like that seriously.”

Students and family members gather in Grand Ledge High School on March 23, 2018.

Shiflett said there are about 1,700 or 1,800 students in the high school and around 200 students participated in the walkout.

Deborah Farris, parent of a student who attends Grand Ledge High School, was initially going to organize the student walkout. She said via email that the Grand Ledge Student Council expressed interest in organizing the event instead, so she thought it would be more appropriate for them to take it over.

Shiflett said that, overall, the walkout was mostly student-based and student-run.

He said that one person from the community addressed the board on March 12, just two days before the walkout, wondering about the attendance policy for students who were planning on leaving their classes.

“Well, you know, our kind of policy applies to all students and in all endeavors,” he said. “But we aren’t going to take any extra steps.”

Shiflett said participating in these peaceful protests and walkouts will not affect students beyond attendance policies.

Sydney Starmer, senior at Grand Ledge High School, said she participated in the walkout.

She said she saw some disorder when it came to the organizing of the event.

“Everyone was kind of waiting for someone to speak,” she said. “There was some confusion about whether we were standing up or sitting down.”

However, Starmer said it’s still important for high school students to be involved in walkouts and other forms of activism.

Karianne Rodeman, a student at Grand Ledge High School, said she did not participate in the walkout on March 14, but she did hear about it from fellow students.

In wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, she said the issue of gun violence is bigger than just gun control.

“I think that it’s more of mental health issues rather than gun control issues,” Rodeman said.

Her sister, Emma Rodeman, said she also didn’t partake in the nationwide walkout, but she heard a lot from students and teachers.

She said from what she heard, many students wanted to participate in the walkout to get out of class rather than to stand up for their beliefs on gun violence.

“I don’t know exactly who did (participate), but I just heard that it wasn’t taken, like, very respectfully or something,” she said. “It was mostly teachers talking about it, not really students.”

Claire Blaske, a junior at Grand Ledge High School said she didn’t take partake in the school walkout either, but she did want to.

“I kind of felt like we shouldn’t (participate),” Blaske said. “A lot of kids did (participate), though, and they liked it but I know quite a few of them were just doing it to get out of class, which is not okay at all.”

Blaske said she is planning on getting involved in the national high school walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

“We encourage you to talk to a classmate you have never talked to before about this protest. Ask them if they would like to join you,” the walkout’s description says. “This is the time to unite. There is power in our community. It is up to us to make the change.”

At Grand Ledge High School’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee on Friday, March 23, Bailey deSilva, a student actor, spoke about gun violence on stage during the show.

“Every single day, over 90 people die to gun violence,” she said during the performance. “How big does that number have to get before enough is really enough?”

Tonya Rice, producer of the musical, said deSilva had the chance to come up with her own speech on something of her choice during the production.

DeSilva chose to bring up gun violence and had the chance to share her point of view the day before March for Our Lives, another national movement.

“She did write it herself and it was run by the director to make sure,” Rice said. “It was her own personal feelings on that.”

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