(HIDE YOUR TIDE PODS, THEY ARE OUT ON THE STREETS TODAY) – ‘Enough is enough’: Thousands of Chicago-area students demanding gun reform walk out of schools



Approximately 1,000 students at Lakeview High School on Chicago’s north side walked out of school on March 14, 2018, as part of the #ENOUGH National School Walkout in response to gun violence.

By Vikki Ortiz HealyContact ReporterChicago Tribune

Thousands of students across the Chicago area walked out of schools Wednesday wearing orange, carrying signs and chanting “Enough!” — adding their voices to a chorus of young people across the country demanding gun reform.

Through walkouts they’ve been planning for weeks as part of a nationwide movement, students in the city and suburbs honored the 17 killed one month ago in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and called attention to gun violence in Chicago and elsewhere that has devastated their schools and communities. Some students carried signs with the names of the Parkland victims. Others walked out silently to convey a somber message. Still others erupted into cheers as speakers addressed the crowds.



Students at Benito Juarez High School in Chicago walk out on March 14, 2018.

“I’m hoping students feel heard and inspired. This is not the end, but the beginning of a nationwide call for gun control,” said Syd Bakal, a senior at Barrington High School, where about 500 students walked out chanting “enough is enough.”

“There are teens like myself who are tired of lockdown drills, fear and perpetual mourning,” Bakal said.

At Barrington High School, students carried signs as they left the school’s stadium and walked roughly a half-mile to Memorial Park in downtown Barrington to host another rally, which organizers said was meant to raise awareness about the lack of federal gun-control laws. Drivers honked in support as they drove past the students along Main Street, while parents and residents lined the street, carrying signs that supported the students’ cause.

At West Aurora High School, an estimated 2,000 students — nearly half the student body — participated in a walkout to the high school’s football stadium, where they formed the words “never again.”

Scattered chants of “save the kids, ban the guns” broke out. Seventeen students were designated to represent the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, holding signs and flowers and intending to remain silent throughout the day.

“It doesn’t matter our age, we have a voice and we’re taking action,” said senior Alonso Cisneros.

District officials and students planned the walkout to the stadium and other, indoor events, including opportunities to write letters to lawmakers and providing voting information.

The roughly 100 students who participated in a previously staged walkout at West Aurora faced consequences ranging from unexcused absences to detention, the same discipline they would have faced any other time they left the building, officials have said. They cited security concerns as a reason for their reaction that time.

In Chicago, hundreds of students at Juarez High School marched out of campus and crowded the West Side building’s soccer field. They pinned yellow ribbons to their coats, and later knelt on the field to honor the memory of those killed or wounded by gun violence in their own community.

“Now is the time to come together to make the change happen in our society for our future,” said Nancy Chavez, a Juarez sophomore who addressed students at the Wednesday morning rally and called for them to support stricter gun control legislation.

“Everyone who is here listening — whether you’re black, white, brown, yellow, whatever you are or what you represent — your story is important. What I want from you is to stand with us and make a change and call ‘enough.’ Enough gun violence, enough bodies shot down, enough shootings, enough deaths among our old and our young people,” Chavez said.

Officially, Chicago Public Schools welcomed the city’s protests and promised students would not be punished for participating. Dignitaries including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Daniel Solis, 25th, plus former governor and attorney general candidate Pat Quinn visited campus for the rally.

“We support our students,” CPS chief Janice Jackson told reporters Tuesday. “We will not enact any disciplinary measures — we think it’s critically important that student voice is heard at this crucial point in our history as a nation.”

Juarez school officials, however, ordered the media to leave the property and barred photographers from documenting much of the school’s walkout.

At Hinsdale Central High School, where hundreds of students participated, students read the names and ages of each of the 17 Parkland victims before releasing red and white balloons into the sky.

“The students of Parkland basically instigated this movement and started fighting for change,” said 18-year-old Louise Irpino, of Hinsdale, who helped to organize her school’s walkout through Instagram. “People our age have a voice and they should be listened to.”

“The adults we look up to and who are in charge in Congress have failed us,” said Laine Williams, another student at Hinsdale Central. “When we go to school, we don’t know if we are coming home. We have to step up and fight for ourselves because they can’t instill common sense gun laws.”

At Oak Park and River Forest High School, students walked out in silence, many carrying hand-lettered signs calling for gun control. Dozens of parents lined the sidewalk across the street from the school. Several held signs of praise and encouragement, while others saluted the silent students with clenched fists.

“We feel like we’re being denied our right to safety in the school environment,” said Lyons Township High School junior Amanda Kural, who walked out with hundreds of classmates in La Grange. Another 60 community members watched from across the street with cheers. “Guns are so readily available, and something needs to be done about that.”

The swift mobilization of students across Illinois is an uprising that some school administrators say they haven’t seen in decades, and one that shows no signs of slowing down.

“I think our students and our teachers are leveraging this movement to inspire and influence more change and more awareness,” said Diana Shulla-Cose, co-founder and president of Perspectives Charter Schools in Chicago, where many of the students who planned to participate in Wednesday’s walkout have lost friends or family members to gun violence. “It’s rooted in heartache, in deep mourning, but there’s a sense of rising up right now and that feels good.”

Wednesday’s walkouts come two weeks after hundreds of high school students across the Chicago area walked out of school on Feb. 21, and another walkout is planned for April 20 — the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. In a nationwide rally called March for Our Lives scheduled for March 24, students, parents and gun control advocates plan to take to the streets of Washington, D.C., Chicago and other cities across the country.

As students organized walkouts, educators were left to strike a delicate balance between encouraging young people’s civic engagement and the need to keep them safe.

While schools have the right to discipline students for not being present in class, many school officials have been supportive of the student-led walkouts and collaborated with student organizers to plan walkouts that are safe, meaningful and nonpolitical.

Still, many of the students who walked out Wednesday carried signs with pointed political messages such as “Protect our Children, Not Your Guns” with no-symbol over the “NRA.”

The paradox of keeping kids safe and refraining from political support played out in several school districts that changed plans at the eleventh hour.

Romeoville High School officials canceled a planned walkout after a student posted a photo of himself posing with what appeared to be a “threatening weapon,” Valley View School District Spokesman Jim Blaney said Wednesday. Students and parents reported the photo, which did not have a caption, to high school staff and police. Romeoville police investigated and confirmed “no viable threat to student safety,” Blaney said.

In lieu of the walkout, which was postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date, Romeoville High School Principal Derek Kinder planned to meet with students in the high school gym Wednesday morning, Blaney said.

In a letter to parents, Kinder noted police would be in the school to “monitor any other events or activities that were planned to occur near our campus.”

Organizers of a pro Second Amendment rally that had been planned in Romeoville canceled the rally due to the investigation. Police also noted the organizer of the counterprotest received a threat, which was being investigated.

Mary Callison, of Paw Paw, was among the small group of counterprotesters who still showed up in a parking lot behind Romeoville High School on Wednesday morning. Though there was no march, Callison said she wanted to show her support for gun rights.

“As a mom, I am heartbroken,” she said of recent shootings. “But we’re not addressing the real issue behind this. It’s not about a weapon. It’s about the people behind the weapon.”

In Grayslake, where school administrators had collaborated with students to plan a walkout, school officials moved the event indoors after some parents expressed concern.

Other school districts worked with student leaders to plan alternative gatherings, including meetings with local legislators or indoor rallies. Teachers and staff at schools where walkouts are planned will continue instruction for students who disagree with or don’t want to join the walkouts.

At Plainfield Community School District 202, administrators worked quickly in the last two weeks to come up with an alternative consequence for students who participate in walkouts Wednesday. Students will have the choice of attending a one-hour interactive forum with a state representative or state senator organized by district officials, or they can serve a traditional one-hour, after-school detention.

“I am particularly proud of our students for standing up for their beliefs, and for their commitment to making positive change,” District 202 Superintendent Lane Abrell wrote in a letter to parents this week. “At the same time, we recognize some students for a variety of reasons do not wish to participate in a walkout.”

Groups including the ACLU have offered training and tips to guide students, many of whom are becoming civically engaged for the first time. The Women’s March Youth Empower group, an offshoot of the Women’s March that fueled plans for the nationwide school walkout and march, posted an eight-page “#Enough! National School Walkout Tool Kit” on its website, offering to connect young organizers with seasoned activist mentors, providing templates for writing to school principals and including a live database of walkouts being planned across the U.S.

Tribune reporter Juan Perez Jr., Pioneer Press reporters Charles Fieldman, Todd Shields, Jennifer Johnson and Kimberly Fornek, Aurora Beacon-News reporter Sarah Freishtat, and freelance reporters Gianna Annunzio, Heather Cherone and Alicia Fabbre contributed.



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