Student walkouts organized across New Hampshire as memorial to students slain in Parkland, Fla.Staff and Correspondent Report
March 11. 2018 12:44PM
The youth movement that began on Valentine's Day, after 17 people were gunned down at a Florida high school, has spread to New Hampshire.
Students across the state are joining their counterparts nationwide in holding "walkouts" on Wednesday to honor victims of the massacre in Parkland, Fla.
At Nashua High School North, student Victoria Sanchez is helping to organize a walkout she described as a combination of a rally, protest and walk of solidarity.
"I think for the students, we are kind of just tired of not having our voices heard, and a nationwide movement is a pretty big opportunity for us," said Sanchez. "Many times teens feel hopeless, like they can't do much. This is our time to showcase that we are important and we really do matter."
Students will gather outside and two students will speak, focusing on the importance of kindness, looking out for fellow students and speaking up when necessary, she said.
According to Sanchez, school administrators have been supportive of the initiative, agreeing that there will be no disciplinary consequences as long as the rally stays peaceful.
School resource officers will be on site and no one will leave school property.
"We will be supervised. It is going to be controlled," Sanchez said.
Hundreds of students at Concord High School also are planning a walkout at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
But Jonathan Weinberg, a senior involved in the planning, said it's not a demonstration. "It's a remembrance," he said.
"We'll be holding a 17-minute, peaceful, respectful silence for the 17 victims of Parkland," he said. "Each minute is dedicated to an individual whose life was taken from them."
Students will walk outside to the courtyard, where the names of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 will be read aloud.
“Concord School District supports peaceful protest, so we are able to conduct this,” Weinberg said.
Students at Windham's middle and high schools will pause regular classroom activities for 17 minutes on Wednesday.
"I think it's important for Windham High School students to honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting by taking a stand against gun violence," said John Tommasi, a sophomore at Windham High. "Walking out of class for 17 minutes is a small gesture but a powerful nationwide message."
For some high school students from the Peterborough area, Wednesday will be a day of action.
Nearly 40 students met at the Peterborough Town Library Friday to organize. Most were from ConVal High School, but others attend High Mowing, a private school in Wilton, and Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative High School in Wilton.
Students said the walkout will last 17 minutes. But ConVal's Anna McGuiness said, "There is going to be more action than just this walkout."
Some students plan to leave campus and walk to the Peterborough Town House. There, some will give speeches before they all head next door to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, where they plan to write letters to politicians. Then they'll walk to the post office to mail their letters.
On Friday, the students drafted a list of actions they are seeking, including universal background checks, licenses to carry, a ban on assault weapons, moving the gun purchase age to 21 and reducing the voting age for local elections to 16.
Students need to be respectful in what they say in their speeches and on signs, the teens said.
McGuiness told students that there are pro-Second Amendment students at ConVal who may mount a counter-protest; she urged them to be respectful of those with opposing views.
After the meeting, McGuiness said it’s also important for adults to come to the Town House Wednesday to support the student protest.
"At ConVal, it's been tough, after the Parkland shooting," she said. "We don't super feel comfortable. We don't know what to do about it. It's really upsetting."
“It affects our everyday lives in a way I think parents understand, but ... the general public doesn’t.”
Bolgen Vargas, Manchester's superintendent of schools, sent a letter to parents on Friday about Wednesday's events. He said the district must "balance supporting student expression and our obligations to educate our students and keep them safe."
Vargas said students have been asked to notify their principals in advance of any planned walkouts. Students will not be penalized for participating - nor be pressured to participate, he wrote.
Some students say they hope Wednesday's events are just the start of a deeper conversation.
Jonathan Weinberg is part of a new statewide coalition of students focusing on social justice issues (nhsocialjusticeleague.org).
“There are so many social issues in this country and I think people miss that they’re all so interconnected,” he said.
Whether it’s gun violence, immigration, domestic abuse or mental health, Weinberg said, "It comes down to a single idea of compassion and respect for one's neighbor and caring for other people."
Correspondents Kimberly Houghton, Chris Garofolo, Ryan O’Connor, Meghan Pierce, John Koziol, Kimberley Haas and Jason Schreiber, and senior reporter Shawne K. Wickham, contributed to this report.