Staff writer Crystal Bai shares her opinion about the Menlo and national school safety walkouts being framed as non-political. Photo courtesy of Cyrus Lowe on Menlo Flickr.
By Crystal Bai
On Wednesday, March 14, students across the country walked out of class to protest gun violence and show solidarity with the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting on Feb. 14. At Menlo, participating students in both the Middle School and Upper School gathered in front of Stent Hall from 10 a.m. to 10:17 a.m., one minute for each of the 17 lives lost. Afterwards, Upper School students were given the opportunity, if they provided a signed permission slip, to join students from Sacred Heart Preparatory, Menlo-Atherton High School and several other local high schools at a rally at El Camino Park.
In a letter to the Menlo community, Head of School Than Healy, Dean of Students Tony Lapolla, Upper School Director John Schafer, and Middle School Director La Vina Lowery wrote that the three main goals of the walkout were showing solidarity with those affected; promoting mental health awareness; and supporting campus safety initiatives. Similarly, student council wanted to portray the walkout as non-partisan and non-political while promoting school safety.
I would like to clarify that I completely agree with the three goals of the walkout that the administration and student council set. Mental health and school safety are both important topics that are especially relevant in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas shooting. However, I disagree with their decision to depict the walkout as non-political.
The national walkout was organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, which set its mission as: “[...]We are walking out for ALL people who have experienced gun violence, including systemic forms of gun violence that disproportionately impact teens in Black and Brown communities. [...] We raise our voices for action against all these forms of gun violence.” This statement means the walkout was, in and of itself, political, by asking for stronger policies on gun control.
While I don’t think the walkout should have necessarily been promoted by the school as only a space for people who support gun control, I also don’t think the walkout should have been framed specifically as non-political. Because it was part of a larger conversation that is about gun control, framing the walkout as non-political seems to mask the topics that are attempting to be elicited by the organizers and Women’s March Youth EMPOWER.
Again, I am in no way disagreeing with the three goals of the walkout set by the school. Instead, I think the walkout should not have been promoted as non-partisan and non-political, and that the school should not have mentioned the political side to it at all. By not specifying a stance, or the lack thereof, I think the walkout would have been more in line with its national goals.