Springfield area students join national day of protests against gun violence

Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 6:48 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - School shootings are becoming common occurrences around the country, and gun violence has now replaced car accidents as the number one cause of death for those aged 18 and under.

After the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the organization “Students Demand Action” was launched. They designated Wednesday, April 5, as a day when students at schools nationwide should band together to protest the lack of progress in curbing gun violence.

Around a hundred students at Parkview High School took their lunch hour to walk through the hallways and outside along the sidewalks to show their solidarity with the national walkout campaign. They carried signs with messages like “Children Fear Going to School,” “Stop Gun Violence,” “We are the Future of the Country, Protect Us,” and “We are Next” and chanted phrases like “Justice won’t wait forever!”

“Before we did this today, people were texting me and asking what’s the point because nothing will change,” said Parkview junior Tyler Thompson. “I’ve been told all my life if you want change, you have to wait. But you can’t wait forever. Because if you wait forever, nothing’s going to happen.”

“It’s not about whether you’re Republican or a liberal,” added Parkview sophomore Korrine Whitten, who helped organize the protest. “It’s about life and death. Your political or religious views don’t matter. People just don’t want to die!”

From kindergarten to college, the school experience has changed dramatically over the years. There have been 377 school shootings since Columbine in 1999, and shooting drills are now as common as tornado drills were for previous generations.

“I’ve had conversations with my teachers where they’ve started crying,” Whitten said of the emotional toll on students and teachers. “I remember when I was in the fifth grade talking to a teacher who had a mental breakdown when we had a talk about what she would do if an intruder broke in. That was in the fifth grade. These kids are too young to deal with this and even have to do this in kindergarten.”

Several area schools, including Kickapoo and Hillcrest, have had shooting calls that turned out to be a hoax, and recently a real shooting near Glendale caused panic at a school event there.

Gun violence protests were also held at other Springfield schools, and SPS administrators did not try to stop them.

“The protests are not a school activity, but our students are expressing their voice during their free time,” explained Parkview Principal Natalie Cauldwell. “Our job as school administrators is to make sure they’re doing it in a safe manner, so we are really here in a supervisory position and to make sure our instruction time is not interrupted during the day.”

“We always appreciate it when our students come forward and communicate their intentions,” added Nichole Welch, the Principal at the Study Alternative Center. “We want to work with them on being able to feel heard within our school.”

And both administrators and students say the current climate does not lend itself to a sense of security, even though many steps have been taken to improve school security.

“There have been a lot of tragedies across the nation with school violence, and our students want to express that they are afraid,” Cauldwell said. “They want something done about gun violence.”

“It feels like nobody is listening to us, which is why we’re doing this,” Thompson said. “Every time we try to talk about it or speak out about how we’re feeling or how we’re upset, it seems people either overreact or under-react.”

“We’re not trying to take away guns,” Whitten pointed out. “But nothing’s working at this point, so something needs to be put into place. Like making guns harder to access for teens or creating better resources for those who have these urges to shoot up a school. It’s just insane and unreal to even think about.”

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