By Ginger Knight, 10th grade-U-32
U-32’s Seeking Social Justice Club was formed at the beginning of this school year. The club is led by two teachers, Meg Allison and Amy Koenigbauer, with student members from grades 7-12.
“Our goal is to raise awareness throughout the school community about issues that are important and matter to us,” said Sylvan Williams, a member of the Social Justice Club. Some of the issues the club has brought up are racism and sexism within our school. Some examples include how to respond to someone using the word “gay” in a derogatory way and how to deal with swastikas drawn on the school walls. Our club has talked to school administration and had important conversations on how to move forward.
Unlike several schools across the country that held their school walkout March 14, U-32 and Montpelier High School postponed their walkout until Wednesday, March 21st because of a snowstorm. With the support of Principal, Steven Dellinger-Pate, as well as Superintendent Bill Kimball, we were able to focus on creating an inclusive school climate. However, because of safety reasons, the walkout was closed to public participation.
At 10 am on the 21st of March students silently left their classes and walked outside to the front of the school. Noah Witke-Mile (senior), Bruno John (sophomore), Sylvan Williams (sophomore), and myself, Ginger Knight (sophomore) spoke in front of an audience of almost 300 students and faculty. Noah opened with a moment of silence to recognize the 17 victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Students and teachers held posters in solidarity. Sylvan read a moving poem called, “Mama, Enough.” Bruno made a speech about the sickness of the NRA, while I read the names of each and every victim shot at MSD. The Times Argus was present and interviewed the speakers after the 17 minutes were over.
There were several teachers who walked out. Nick Holquist, a Middle School English teacher said, “I participated because I was inspired by students organizing it on their own. It is amazing how students got together and made it happen.” For the rest of the day, students attended classes and some talked with their peers about the walkout. Many students talked about the signs that were held including one that said, “I ♡ the NRA”.
“I feel as though the student that held up the “I ♡ the NRA” was standing up for what they believe in. This walkout was meant to be for the 17 students that passed away, and it turned into a walkout for people who were not supporters of guns,” said an anonymous student who didn’t join the walkout.
The following week, our Principal, Steven Dellinger-Pate, held a forum for students who didn’t have a chance to speak in the walkout to have their voices heard. About 10-12 students showed up to have a respectful conversation with the principal. The majority of those who attended believed the walkout had a good outcome, but they expressed a need for more dialogue with their peers around current and controversial issues. Our principal stated he would be offering more opportunities for students to engage in civil dialogue respectfully.
To our surprise, Noah Witke-Mile was interviewed by a Toronto based news channel about our school walkout. This goes to show how far reaching this student-based movement is.
No matter what side of the gun issue you’re on, we all agree we do not want to be the next victims of a school shooting. As a school community, I believe it is very important to engage with others and listen to what other people have to say. The Seeking Social Justice Club will continue to speak up and create positive change.
Editor’s note: For more on the walkout, see the U-32 Chronicle article.