#Enough Walkout and March

#Enough Walkout and March

Cullin Egge, Editor

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14th, nearly 100 students, faculty, staff, parents, and friends of the Prep school peacefully walked out of school to the steps of the St. John’s Abbey. There, they stood in silence for 17 minutes to honor each of the 17 victims killed in the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. After each minute passed, Kelsey Christensen, ’21, called out the name of a student whose life was taken much too soon. It was a time for the Prep community to show solidarity with those affected by gun violence at the Florida school. After the vigil, participants marched around the Abbey mall carrying signs, along with confidence in their activism. Messages included “Books, Not Bullets,” “Protect Us, Not Guns,” and “#Enough.” After the march, participants met in the gymnasium and formed a large circle to promote unity. Before the walkout ended and students returned to class, some wise words and a prayer were offered by senior Genesis Knoblach: “Yes, we are young. I know that… but you are the people with so much power right now. You are the people who right now the world is looking to.”

The walkout was promoted by Youth EMPOWER, a subdivision of the national activist group Women’s March. They encourage students to use their voice and take a stand for their beliefs. For the #Enough March, they hoped to “protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods,” according to their website.

The administration at SJP were supportive throughout the process of planning and executing the march. Principal Pam McCarthy said “This is the way (the students) feel and something they think is important for them, and a way to exercise their voices at a time when they are too young to vote or too young to do so many things that we have age restrictions for.” She said students were responsible for catching up on material they missed in class, but there would be no punishments for students who walked out. McCarthy also said although parents might have different opinions on the walkout, most are supportive of the students exercising their voice. “Certainly as a Catholic Benedictine school, an important aspect of what we do here is prayer,” she said. “It would be hard for the St. John’s Prep community to rail against prayer because that’s a big reason a lot of people send their kids here.”

Other schools in the area also participated in the walkout. Apollo and Tech were on Spring Break, so they couldn’t walk out. Instead, they held a vigil before their break began. Students who walked out of class at Sartell and Sauk Rapids-Rice, 125 and 200, respectively, received standard punishment for leaving school: unexcused absences. Sartell Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert said, “I recognize student activism and we want our kids to use their heads, but we want them to know that their actions will have consequences.” While reporters and publicity were welcomed and encouraged at SJP, they were banned from Sartell and SRR to prevent any “disturbance.” At SRR, no signs were allowed to be made in order to retain school neutrality.

But at Saint John’s Prep, Kelsey Christensen proudly said, “We don’t just want to walk out and have it end there… we want to be able to continue talking about this and resolve these issues.” And to those who didn’t believe the march would make an impact, she says: “I want people to know that if they have something to say, they should speak up… age doesn’t matter. Gender doesn’t matter. Race doesn’t matter.”