Lo­cal stu­dents honor vic­tims of Florida shoot­ing

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIEL DIVILIO and LEANN SCHENKE ddivilio@thekent­coun­tynews.com lschenke@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CHESTERTOWN — As stu­dents in Park­land, Fla. were reen­ter­ing their high school for the first time two weeks af­ter a deadly mass shoot­ing, stu­dents here hon­ored the vic­tims with a “Walk-Out for Unity.” Or­ga­nized by ad­min­is­tra­tors, stu­dents and staff at Kent County Mid­dle School and Kent County High School who chose to par­tic­i­pate in the walk-out stood out­side for 17 min­utes start­ing at 8:40 a.m. to pay their re­spects for the 17 stu­dents and staff of Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School killed Feb. 14. For the Kent County High School stu­dents who gath­ered in Tro­jan Sta­dium for 17 min­utes of si­lence in a “Walk­Out for Unity,” the act was more of a re­mem­brance than a protest. “We are do­ing it to re­mem­ber the stu­dents that didn’t make it out of the school,” said 11th-grader Mary Cate Par­ent. Fel­low 11th-grader Sailor Bot­tom­ley said the idea to hold a walk-out started through so­cial me­dia. “We saw on so­cial me­dia other schools did it. Stu­dents were post­ing stuff to get ev­ery­one in­volved. We all felt very strongly about it,” Bot- tom­ley said. She said that on Feb. 26 some KCHS stu­dents wrote let­ters to sup­port stu­dents at the Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in ad­vance of their re­turn to classes Feb. 28. Bot­tom­ley said the ad­min­is­tra­tion at Kent County High School was no­ti­fied that the stu­dents wanted to hold a walk-out. She said the staff sup­ported the idea, and a letter went out to par­ents de­scrib­ing what the walk-out would en­tail. Kent County Mid­dle School Prin­ci­pal Mary He­len Spiri sent a no­tice home an­nounc­ing the planned event at her school. On the morn­ing of Feb. 28, Spiri re­minded stu­dents in her morn­ing an­nounce­ment that day’s walk-out rep­re­sented “our com­mit­ment to grow stronger as a com­mu­nity.” Spiri said par­tic­i­pa­tion was a per­sonal de­ci­sion for stu­dents and staff. Those choos­ing not to be a part of the walk-out were asked to go to the cafe­te­ria to en­gage in other “unity ac­tiv­i­ties.” “I thought it was good that we could re­spect them and show that we care for ev­ery­one that has died in the shoot­ing. And we’re go­ing over things here so we can pro­tect our lives,” sev­enth-grader Will Maier said. Maier said there could be more done with back­ground checks on would-be gun pur­chasers to im­prove safety. “But I don’t think guns should be banned or any­thing,” he said.

Sixth-grader Ryan My­ers, who also par­tic­i­pated in the walk-out, agreed, say­ing he and his fam­ily are big hunters. “I don’t think you should fight vi­o­lence with vi­o­lence,” said sev­enth-grader Lib­erty Samp­son. Maier and eighth-grader Ki­azia Kil­son spoke about how time had been spent that week in school on pro­ce­dures about what to do if a shoot­ing were at­tempted. Kil­son said she does not feel com­pletely safe at the school with the fear of po­ten­tial shoot­ing. She said she does not think there is a “high chance” of it hap­pen­ing, though. Kil­son said some of her friends were con­cerned about their safety out­side the school dur­ing the walk-out. Po­lice were on cam­pus for the du­ra­tion. My­ers said he felt more com­fort­able with the walk-out hav­ing po­lice on cam­pus. “I feel like to­day the com­mu­nity was united,” Samp­son said. There were 39 stu­dents at Kent County Mid­dle School who re­port­edly chose not to par­tic­i­pate. At Kent County High School, the num­ber was about 100. “Some of the stu­dents do not sup­port it,” Bot­tom­ley said of her fel­low high school­ers. “Some of them do not want to sup­port it be­cause hunters think they are try­ing to get rid of their guns. But that’s not re­ally what we are do­ing.” At Kent County Mid­dle School, the stu­dents who did not par­tic­i­pate came to­gether and listed “17 ways to show we are a school of unity.” They in­volved co­op­er­a­tion, re­spect, hard work, re­spon­si­bil­ity and self-es­teem. Kent County High School Prin­ci­pal Nick Keck­ley praised stu­dents for their pas­sion and ac­tivism. In the wake of the Florida shoot­ing, stu­dents in Florida and be­yond have taken na­tional lead­ers to task over what they see as a fail­ure on gun con­trol. “We know what’s go­ing on na­tion­ally, which I think is phe­nom­e­nal,” Keck­ley said. “We wanted to honor the move­ment of protest­ing and pro­vide a safe place for the stu­dents to be able to do that. And also to stand with them.” Keck­ley said he did not want to force any stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate, which is why stu­dents who wished to could stay in the au­di­to­rium of the high school. “I think as a na­tion we have a real frank dis­cus­sion on how to keep our kids safe,” Keck­ley said. “Ev­ery day com­ing to school, it has to be in the back of your mind.” Keck­ley said the walk-out was en­tirely stu­dent-led and that he could not be more proud of the stu­dents. The nor­mal school day re­sumed quickly at Kent County Mid­dle School, with stu­dents go­ing back to classes af­ter the walk-out. Bas­ket­balls could be heard bounc­ing in the gym and mu­sic was com­ing from the band room.


Spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher Syd­ney Billings, left, and sixth-grade English lan­guage arts teacher Brooke Mul­ford, cen­ter, hold hands with stu­dents dur­ing a 17-minute “Walk-Out for Unity” Feb. 28 hon­or­ing the 17 stu­dents and teach­ers killed in a Florida...


Kent County High School stu­dents and staff bow their heads dur­ing a “Walk-Out for Unity” Wed­nes­day, Feb. 28. The stu­dents hon­ored the 17 peo­ple killed in a Florida school shoot­ing with 17 min­utes of si­lence.

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