Speak up or shut up?


Shalah Russell and Julianne Gannon

 February 14, 2018, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. There were a total of 17 people killed and 17 wounded. There have been 18 school shootings in 2018 leading up to then. Due to the rapid increase of these massacres, students have become very vocal about gun control and the right to bear arms. Politicians across the United States have reacted to the students’ responses both negatively and positively. This has created a national debate on whether or not high school students should be included in the conversation about gun control.

Other students around the country have started to express their opinions on this topic by using social media as a platform. One person that has sparked this trend is Emma Gonzalez. She has become a spokesperson for the students at Parkland and also students around the U.S. She and others are advocating for tougher gun laws and measures to increase school safety by promoting the March For Our Lives rallies.

This event has even impacted our own students and faculty at RBHS. Members of our community have developed their own beliefs about gun control and who should be able to talk about it. Social Studies teacher John Fields stands behind students being able to be vocal about gun control.

“It should absolutely include high school students because they are the ones being impacted by school shootings, they are the ones in school, so they should absolutely be apart of that conversation,” said Fields.

Some people are confused as to why politicians are dismissing the conversations young people are having about the issue. English teacher Kathleen Harsy thinks the leaders of our country should take all voices into consideration.

“I can’t even begin to imagine why a politician would not be interested in hearing the voices of those they serve. Even if you’re not voting, they’re still serving you. My hope is that the persistence of youth, teachers, adults, and past victims, energizes it enough so that we can turn the tide,” said Harsy.

Many of those who are complaining about the outspoken high school students in Florida are using the students’ ages as a reason to invalidate their opinions. Social Studies and Economics teacher John Beasley strongly believes the age gap is insignificant.

“I think it’s pathetic. I think that a lot of these young people have spoken with more eloquence than so many adults have. I think the most disturbing thing is the conspiracy theories out there that people have tried to use to delegitimize those kids,” said Beasley.

Other people, such as Daniel O’Rourke, claim that politicians have alternative motives.

“I think politicians only pay attention to people who can vote. They are self serving and deceitful,” said O’Rourke.

Students like Seymone Russell and Nadia Kaczmarz strongly believe that students have rights to be involved and be allowed to speak on the topic of gun control.

“I feel angry because they should pay more attention to us and what we are saying,” said Russell. “There have been so many school shootings, so it does affect us because they are able to get guns easily.”

Kaczmarz believes communication is key when conversations like these occur.

“I think it is important to talk about it, because that’s our future. You don’t have to discuss it if you don’t want to, but you shouldn’t diss having a conversation about it. It would be nice to hear other opinions other than your own,” said Kaczmarz.

On the other hand, some students like Alyssa Hart believe the age gap between high school students and legal voters is too significant to ignore.

“It depends on the situation. I feel as if the voices as teenagers don’t really matter because it’s adults who control the government. Teenagers don’t really know what they’re talking about unless it directly affects them,” said Hart.

When it comes down to it, the recent conversations about gun control are less about political sides but have the purpose of improving safety measures in schools around the nation.

“I am super inspired by them, and our student body here, and other schools in the area. It’s exciting when people want to make the world a better place. I don’t think it is controversial to say that we want our schools to be safe; that’s not debatable,” said Harsy. “I’m excited that young people want to be apart of it and it is something that we have in common generationally. I’m happy that we are all coming together and that there is way more of us moving in the right direction to keep our schools safe.”