On March 14, 2018, Montclair High School students organized a walkout to protest gun violence.
Montclair High School students self-organized a walkout against gun violence for 17 minutes on March 14, 2018, to show their support for the 17 students who lost their lives at Parkland High School in Florida on February 14, 2018, and against gun violence.
With snow still on the ground and a chilly wind in the air, it was not comfortable to be outside on March 14th. That didn’t stop Montclair High School students from protesting en masse, staging a walkout at 10 AM to protest gun violence and the lack of legislative reform surrounding it.
Students from all grades streamed out of the doors to show their support for gun reform. Parents lined the sidewalks and cheered them on, waving and holding signs that expressed their pride. Eventually, hundreds of students filled Montclair High School’s amphitheater, most dressed in orange clothing.
The color orange has been chosen to represent solidarity against gun violence. In 2013, Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in a case of mistaken identity. Her parents chose the color orange to honor her as it is the color hunters wear to protect themselves from other hunters.
The walkout in Montclair was an experience shared by students, school faculty and parents. Students took turns speaking to the crowd with a bullhorn. Their calls to action were met with frequent cheers and applause from those attending, who held signs with powerful messages such as “Am I Next?” and “Protect Kids, Not Guns!”.
Parents watched proudly, jostling for space to capture the moments on their phones. One parent, Bart Mandell, said his daughters were “incredibly fortunate to be raised in such a supportive community.” When asked if he thought this was a necessary action from the students, Mandell replied “Of course. These people will be our leaders very soon, and unfortunately, they’re having to grow up fast.”
Montclair High School athletics’ coaches also attended to show support and watch their athletes take a stand. Toure Weaver, Varsity Head Coach for boys’ soccer, watched on proudly as his athletes took a stand. “I’m happy they’re out here”, he said. Head Women’s Crew Coach Lorna Rundle felt as though she had a “responsibility” to be there and show support. “I’m proud of my athletes for doing their part in changing a dangerous culture.”
After the speeches in the amphitheater, a memorial was held on the front lawn of Montclair High School. Students lay their signs and flowers in a show of respect to the lives lost from gun violence. A student tearily spoke of the “constant uncertainty” of whether she and her little brother would return home from school that day.
March 14th was recognized widely as National Walkout Day. Over 3,000 schools around the country also held walk-outs and other forms of protests. The students in many of those schools did not have the support that Montclair High School students had. A school in South Plainfield, New Jersey is reportedly suspending 75 students for staging a walkout.
Fortunately for Montclair’s students, they are encouraged to form a voice surrounding important issues that may be seen as political by some. James Earle, Principal of Montclair High School, says supporting the students was never a political decision. “We make an effort to support all of our students.”