Students in Tacoma join nationwide movement to change gun laws

Students (from left) Hannah Altayar, Gabrielle Grandjean, Sophia Jeter, Julia Henning and Rayna Wolff are part of Annie Wright’s Community Services Leadership group, which organized the Wednesday walkout. Not pictured is student organizer Graycie Viscon. Photo by Andrew Fickes

Students in ninth through 12th grades at Annie Wright Schools in Tacoma made their voices heard at 10 a.m. on Wednesday when they joined the #enough movement and more than 3,000 student-led school walkouts across the nation demanding for change in gun laws, marking exactly one month since a lone gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Organized by Annie Wright’s Community Services Leadership group and Model UN, the student body of 186 young women had the choice of participating in three events that day: a student led walkout onto the campus front lawn where there was 17 minutes of silence and students were welcome to speak freely; a student-led moderated discussion in the school’s Great Hall; or an opportunity for silent prayer in the school’s chapel.

“(Students) want to be heard, and so we want to give them a platform to do so,” said Jen Willey, communications director for the school.

Jake Guadnola, director of the Upper School for girls, said he was impressed by how poised students at Annie Wright have been on the issue of gun violence.

“That they took action and want the school to be safe makes me proud,” Guadnola said.

Rayna Wolff, a senior at Annie Wright and a member of the CSL group, started out the conversation on the grass, projecting into a horn loudspeaker. The young women around her held hands in a large circle, many wearing dark clothing to symbolize solidarity with people affected by gun violence.

“In the past recent shootings, I’m shocked, confused, and angry by the lack of action by political leaders,” Wolff said.

Wolff said that schools should be a place where students are allowed to socialize and discover their place in the world, not a place where they’re fearing for their life. She said preventing gun violence should be a bipartisan issue and that lawmakers should work together across the aisle. Finally, she said she and her fellow classmates could create change as a unified school, not as a divided one.

Julia Henning, a freshman and a staff writer for the Upper School’s Inkwell online publication, shared an original spoken-word poem that vividly described what a student amid a school shooting may be experiencing: Fast beating hearts/eyes wide open/hiding in a corner/crying, wailing, screaming/for any form of help/afraid for their life for the first time/everything too real/never expected to happen here. At the end of the poem, Henning read the names of the 17 people killed at the Parkland high school.

“We want change to honor you,” she said, after reading off the names.

Hannah Altayar, a freshman and co-organizer, said the reason for Annie Wright’s involvement in the nationwide movement is that everyone should be involved in this issue, not just adults.

“It’s a people issue, not a political issue,” Altayar said.

Sedia Bayard, the faculty advisor for the CSL group, said she was very proud of her students for spearheading this project.

“This started with the #enough movement on Facebook. We introduced it to them,” Bayard said. “They’ve learned about social justice issues all year.”

Lincoln students show they are willing and ABLE to stand up against gun violence

By Steve Dunkelberger

About 250 students at Lincoln High School walked out of class for a silent protest against gun violence in schools. They took part in the #enough movement at schools around the nation that was sparked by the student massacre in Parkland, Fla. Lincoln’s Associated Student Body President Allie Brooks read off the names of the 17 victims of that shooting, followed by a minute of silence for each victim.

“We have gun violence in our schools and communities every day,” she said. “They all matter.”

The protest was particularly poignant to Lincoln students, after a 15-year-old student there was arrested after reportedly making threats against students at the school through social media.

Abes are planning another protest at 10 a.m. on April 20, for the  National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools on the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre that left  12 students and one teacher dead and injured 21 others in 1999.

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