Walkout or Callout: Opinion by Josh Wente
May 4, 2018
It wasn’t long ago that students walked out of their second block classes in protest of gun violence. The April 20th walkouts attracted a large following of students nationwide in response to the tragic Parkland shooting earlier this year. Hundreds appeared at Waukee’s demonstration to participate, excused from their classes by administration, as the walkout took place at 10:00am, during the school day.
On May 2nd, a few Waukee students advocated for their 2nd Amendment rights in response to the April 20th protest. Students walked out of their classes around 10:00, the same time that previous protesters demonstrated. The walkout named “Stand for the Second” attracted a nationwide following after Will Riley, a high school senior from New Mexico, initiated the movement. The attendance of “Stand for the Second” was far less than that of the “National School Walkout.”
So why the drastic drop in participation?
Some would argue that the low level of attendance resulted from the different beliefs of students in the younger generation leaning anti-gun. Others would say, students who are pro-gun fear the virtue signaling tactics of the “National School Walkout” movement, which could shame them into not participating. As far as evidence to support a side is concerned, very little has been presented to conclude either correct.
However, one thing is for certain regarding the two walkouts at Waukee High School. The sharp difference in the handling of attendance by administration. For students who wished to participate in Wednesday’s walkout they must have received permission from their parents to be excused from class. Unlike the anti-gun violence walkout which gave all Waukee High School students permission to attend automatically from administration. Alexis Derby, the lead organizer of the “Stand for the Second” walkout at Waukee stated, “[Justmann] let me freely speak, and let me use my voice. Then, he told me how the walkout would be politically motivated, and it would not be school sponsored.” Derby claimed that she was not allowed to hang up posters, or for lack of a better word, “advertise” her walkout on school property.
“In both instances students were proactive and sought out our building administration to have conversations as they planned their student led walkout at Waukee High School. At Waukee Community School District we want to ensure that all students feel safe and respected. As a district we seek to understand the voices of our students and be responsive while not creating a divide within our school,” explained WHS principal Cary Justmann.
Regardless of the stance of administrators, students, or teachers on contemporary affairs, Waukee has opened a bad door regarding student free speech. Will the district provide the same kind of 1st amendment privileges to students of all opinions? Although the April 20th demonstration was anti-gun violence and sponsored by the school, do they owe a bigger look at other student organized protests, such as the pro-second amendment walkout? Derby concluded, “I would have never thought that standing up for our Second Amendment would be political.”