‘To­day is the day we say enough’

Ne­wark stu­dents join na­tional walk­out against gun vi­o­lence


Hun­dreds of Ne­wark stu­dents walked out of class Wed­nes­day morn­ing to honor the vic­tims of the Park­land, Fla., school shoot­ing and call on state and fed­eral of­fi­cials to take ac­tion to pre­vent fur­ther gun vi­o­lence.

The walk­outs co­in­cided with dozens of sim­i­lar protests in Delaware and thou­sands na­tion­wide held in re­sponse to the Feb. 14 shoot­ing at Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School that killed 17 peo­ple.

“We’re go­ing to be safe in our so­ci­ety, be­cause we’re not go­ing to stand for it any­more,” Ne­wark Char­ter School se­nior Dounya Ra­madan said. “To­day is the day we say enough.”

Ra­madan helped co­or­di­nate the stu­dent-led walk­outs statewide and said she and her class­mates are frus­trated that po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have not taken ac­tion in the wake of sev­eral mass shoot­ings at Sandy Hook, Las Ve­gas, Park­land and else­where.

“It could have hap­pened

to us. It could have hap­pened to any­one in this state, any­one in this na­tion, and it con­tin­ues to hap­pen over and over and over again,” Ra­madan said. “The list keeps get­ting longer, tragedy keeps on go­ing, and we have not taken ac­tion. It’s been too long.”

At Ne­wark Char­ter, a cou­ple hun­dred stu­dents streamed out of the build­ing at 10 a.m. and gath­ered out­side the school. As three Ne­wark Po­lice of­fi­cers kept watch, the stu­dents held signs call­ing for gun con­trol.

The walk­out was in­tended to last 17 min­utes – in honor of the 17 Park­land vic­tims – but it ac­tu­ally lasted a bit longer as sev­eral stu­dents made speeches. Oth­ers sang “Amaz­ing Grace” and read the names of the Park­land vic­tims.

Eighth-grader Kelley Lau­renceau said she used to feel safe go­ing to school but the school shoot­ing in Florida left her feel­ing an “un­der­ly­ing sense of panic” when she walks through the door at NCS.

“No kid my age, older or younger should ever have to be afraid for their life when they walk into school,” Lau­renceau said. “No kid should feel their heart skip a beat when they hear the in­ter­com turn on. No kid should have the thought that school shoot­ings are some­thing ac­cept­able in this coun­try, let alone com­mon.”

She said she be­lieves stu­dents have a chance to usher in a turn­ing point on gun con­trol in Amer­ica.

“This is the type of stuff that makes the his­tory books that sit un­der your desks right now in class,” she said. “Though it may seem like adults have all the power in the world, we are the ones who have the fu­ture in our hands. It’s in your ju­ris­dic­tion to de­cide what world you want to live in and what world you want your chil­dren to grow up in.”

Ra­madan said the protest has al­ready at­tracted the at­ten­tion of lo­cal politi­cians. She and stu­dent lead­ers from other schools have been in­vited to meet with Gov. John Car­ney and state leg­is­la­tors.

“To­day, you made your voices heard,” she told her class­mates Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “You have been heard, and we’re go­ing to take all your ideas to Dover.”

Mean­while at Ne­wark High School, stu­dents walked a lap around the build­ing while chant­ing slo­gans and hold­ing signs.

The walk­out was or­ga­nized by stu­dent gov­ern­ment mem­bers Meadow Favuzzi, Maria Yea and Re­becca Alexan­der.

“Ever since Columbine, there’s been more and more mass shoot­ings and there hasn’t been any­thing done about it, and we can’t take it any­more,” Yea said. “Stu­dents are afraid to go to school. Stu­dents should never be afraid of what should be a safe place. We need to call this sit­u­a­tion out to the gov­ern­ment so they can do some­thing about it.”

The pas­sion of the stu­dents was on full dis­play as they flooded out of the doors and banded to­gether, many hold­ing hands as they walked, with po­lice guard­ing the fringes of the build-

ing. For the or­ga­niz­ers, they saw the na­tional walk­out as a civic duty.

“I think we’re do­ing some­thing that we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to do,” Favuzzi said. “If I don’t walk out, I’m do­ing my school an in­jus­tice.”

The Park­land shoot­ing hit home for Favuzzi be­cause she shares a first name with one of the vic­tims, 18-yearold Meadow Pol­lack.

“I thought about her and what we had in com­mon, and I’m sick of chil­dren dy­ing and noth­ing be­ing done,” she said.

Like many other high school kids around the na­tion, the youth stepped up to help plan the whole event, and ran an an­nounce­ment over the in­ter­com ex­plain­ing the mean­ing behind it all and what they were set­ting out to achieve.

“I wish we didn’t have to step up,” Alexan­der said. “I wish the adults of our coun­try could have taken care of this by them­selves like they were ap­pointed to, but some­thing has to be done. We can’t live with this.”

Across town at Downes Ele­men­tary School, fifth­graders stood silently along Casho Mill Road while hold­ing signs.

“Af­ter Park­land, we had a lock­down drill,” teacher Lisa Lem­mon ex­plained. “And the kids came to us and asked ‘We don’t un­der­stand why some­one would come in and want to hurt us. What can we do?’”

The kids had all seen posts about the na­tional walk­out on Face­book and af­ter talk­ing it over with their teacher, de­cided it would be a good idea to par­tic­i­pate.

“We just fin­ished learn­ing about the Bill of Rights and our first amend­ment rights to speech and protest,” stu­dent An­drew Bradley said.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion was vol­un­tary and lim­ited to fifth-graders, Lem­mon said. Parental per­mis­sion was re­quired.

“We wanted to honor the kids that died in the Florida school shoot­ing,” said stu­dent Sydney Brand. “We agreed this would be the right thing to do.”

For Lem­mon, the pri­or­ity was mak­ing sure the kids knew that school is sup­posed to be safe, and if changes need to be made, their voices mat­ter in the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion as well.

“We want to con­vey to the kids that this is their safe place, and we’re here to pro­tect them and ed­u­cate them, but we have a lot of di­a­logue in the class­room,” she said. “We talked about how, since this is their first protest, you should be pas­sion­ate about what you’re protest­ing.”

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing a thumbs up and re­sound­ing honks from passersby, Lem­mon looked out across the line of stu­dents down the side­walk.

“I’ve never been more proud of any of you as a teacher,” she told them. “This is a day all of us will never for­get.”

For many of the stu­dents, they knew that their message was loud and clear. “It shows peo­ple that even though we’re kids, we have a voice, and for any other kids out there, let your voices be heard,” stu­dent Katie Hanich said.

When asked what they stood for, stu­dent Ri­ley Hessey-At­tar­ian had a sim­ple an­swer.

“We stand to end gun vi­o­lence,” he said.

Stu­dents at the Ne­wark Cen­ter for Cre­ative Learn­ing also held a walk­out. They sang protest songs as they marched to South College Av­enue, where they linked arms and stood in si­lence for 17 min­utes.

“Some stu­dents par­tic­i­pated to honor the vic­tims of the Park­land school shoot­ing, and some were there to call for Congress to pass mean­ing­ful gun reg­u­la­tion; some were there for both rea­sons,” Ad­min­is­tra­tive Direc­tor Bette Balder said. “NCCL is proud of our stu­dents for shar­ing their voices.”


Ne­wark Char­ter School se­nior Dounya Ra­madan or­ga­nized Wed­nes­day’s walk­out.


Ne­wark Char­ter School stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in a walk­out on Wed­nes­day to call for an end to gun vi­o­lence.


Ne­wark High School stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in Wed­nes­day’s walk­out.


Downes Ele­men­tary School stu­dents line Casho Mill Road dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s walk­out.

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