West Ottawa students participate in national movement


Maddy Eppard and Jocelyn Sweeney

On Wednesday, March 14, West Ottawa students participated in a walkout that lasted 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida, shooting. Participation in the event was voluntary.


Thousands of students all over the US decided to show support or to protest. These demonstrations varied from blocking a street in Philadelphia to filling a football field in rural Tennessee.


West Ottawa High School administrators worked with student leaders to develop a plan for today’s event. After considerable discussion, the group decided to line up in the hallways in solidarity. “We chose to stay in the hallways because it was a way to still show support for the victims of the shootings but also remain safe,” said Sr. Anna Saewert. Some students wanted to go outside, but others were worried about possible safety issues.


After Principal Todd Tulgestke’s announcement about the protocol for the demonstration, most students moved silently to the hallway. An estimated 70% of students and many teachers participated. The hallways were respectfully silent with only occasional chatter.


Members of the broadcast journalism program, WOBN, circulated, filming the students in the hallways. Other members of the class plan to edit the footage and send it to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.


Students had many reasons for participating.


“I just wanted to support the students in Parkland, Florida. I’m not really sure where I stand on the gun laws but I do want our school to send the message that we support the students,” Jr. Jireh Gibson said. “I think what we did was respectful.”


While students appreciated the opportunity to show their support for Stoneman Douglas, some were frustrated that they could not voice their concerns about gun control.


“I felt like the purpose was lost, and while it was good to honor the victims, that wasn’t the original point,” Jr. Jillian Greene said


Jr. Brooke Drost said, “In my opinion, I think there needed to be some discussion that did involve politics. I think in order to talk about school safety, there had to be some mention of gun control.”


Drost appreciated that after the event, students were given the option to write a letter to their congressman about their thoughts with help from social studies teachers.