A group of students participated in a walkout at noon today at Mesa High School in response to the mass school shooting in Florida last week.
It was 17 minutes out of the school day, but it was a very symbolic time frame, matching the number of people killed one week ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla.
School officials knew about it ahead of time and teachers were instructed to not stop anyone from leaving the classroom, and it would be considered an absence.
The movement meant different things to those who participated.
Some did it out of respect to those who died, some did it in regards to gun control, others did it in the name of bringing attention to mental health issues, and some did it just to ditch class and never returned.
“The students at my school wanted to show unity and voice our thoughts and prayers to the victims and all the schools across the country,” senior Kris Jackson said. “We want schools to be safe again.”
No matter the reason, it brought attention to the school and the students, the majority of whom did so respectfully with a purpose and then returned to class.
One of those was sophomore Asanti Esmerelda.
“It wasn’t about gun violence to me as much as it was about learning more about mental health issues and what the students need,” Esmerelda said. “I feel like we need more therapists in our school to talk. Everyone deals with depression and anxiety.”
High school students deal with more outside pressures than ever before compared to previous generations. Social media has created a new way to bully and a place to shout down people. There are pressures to earn scholarships, so everyone can retweet it, ask a person to dance in a spectacular fashion so everyone can like it and so many other variables that were inconceivable in years past.
“There is a lot going on and so many people our age don’t have any one to talk to about it,” Esmerelda said. “It can weigh on you. It sticks with you. It would be better if we had someone to fall back on at school we could talk to, and not just about education.
“We need more ways to talk about the things that are bothering us.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mesa High School Principal Kirk Thomas sent out the following email to staff members early this morning:
We are aware of a potential action at noon today planned by our students in honor of the Parkland, Florida students who lost their lives on Feb. 14. Student safety is our top priority, so we are monitoring the situation and planning accordingly. Any on-campus action will be allowed to proceed peacefully.
You should remind students that being in class is their first priority. This is not a school-sanctioned activity, so you and all non-participating students should remain in the classroom and instruction should continue. If your students choose to leave your classroom to participate in the action, do not prevent them from doing so.
Do not share this proactively, but if a student asks, the only resulting consequence for participation will be an absence. No additional classroom consequences should be imposed or threatened to be imposed because of their decision.
If a student or group of students choose to leave campus, we will discourage them from doing so. For legal reasons, however, our schools cannot physically stop students from leaving or force them to return to campus. Administration will follow and monitor the students for safety, but will not intercede. Once off campus, Mesa Police have jurisdiction.
We don’t know the planned duration of this action. It may be 17 minutes, or it may be the rest of the day. If you learn of any additional details or information that could help ensure a safe, peaceful action, please email me directly.
The email specifically told teachers not to talk with media today.