Local Students Unite for National Walk Out
By Dianne Anderson
Along with hundreds of thousands of other American students, San Bernardino is uniting for change in gun laws, and to remember so many students that have lost their lives on campuses across America.
On Friday, April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, students will take to the podiums to pressure politicians for stricter gun control. The walkouts will begin between noon and 12:30 p.m. at citywide San Bernardino schools.
Anthony Caughron, a local student and member of CHORDS Enrichment Youth Program, will perform along with many other students in the group at the rally meet up point, San Bernardino Community SDA Church at 3:00 p.m. across from San Bernardino High School.
Since the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida high school mass shooting that left 17 dead, hundreds of thousands of students have walked out classrooms to draw attention to laws that most are not yet old enough to vote on.
Caughron said the students he knows are not talking about school shootings in a gun control kind of way because they think shootings happen outside the school gate.
“They don’t worry about it, or they say they want to shoot back,” he said, although reasoning, “If they have a gun, and you have a gun, who’s going to shoot first?”
Edwin Johnson said some local teens have a different perspective about school violence and mass shootings. He hears how some students feel removed from the impact because they live in “the hood,” or ideas of shoot first before they get shot.
“Most of my kids say, ‘we’ll get them before they get us,’ or they say mass shootings don’t happen in the hood because there are always shootings outside the gate, down the street,” he said.
Because gun violence is an everyday awareness with local kids, he worries about the long-term impact of stress. Kids come to school to get a break from living in the hard parts of the community.
“They’re from the hood, they see this every day. It’s crazy for this to happen at school because a lot of them see school as a safe haven,” he said. “For a lot of kids, school is a place to get lunch, and a safe escape.”
In partnering with SBCUSD, the CHORDS program works with four high schools, including San Bernardino High School, Pacific, Arroyo Valley and San Gorgonio high schools, serving about 80 students.
Johnson said the program also allows students an important creative outlet to express their concerns and for adults to understand what they would otherwise internalize.
He is also concerned that local kids are already traumatized by the stress of gun violence. In the past, if there was a lockdown during after school hours, it was usually because something happened down the street.
Lately, he said the kids more on edge and ready to hit the floor.
“The feeling is different. Now when they say it’s locked down because something happened down the street, people are in fear for their lives,” he said.
He said that giving the kids an opportunity to write out their own lyrics is a sort of self-help way to process their reality.
“They’re telling the world their story through their performances,” he said.
So far, the National High School Walk-Out for Anti Gun Violence petition on Change.org, has garnered over 254,450 signatures to be submitted to the U.S. Senate.
Citing https://everytownresearch.org, the organization reports FBI data and other reports of 156 mass shootings from 2009 to 2016 in the U.S. With four or more shot and killed, totaling 848 shot and killed, and 339 shot and injured.
At the event, local senior Lynette Gomez, 17, is singing songs, one specifically addressing gun control. She said students everywhere are talking about the issue, but the fear is because they know they don’t have the direct control over policy at the highest levels.
“A lot of students at my school feel unsafe because it can happen in any school district, I don’t think it has to do with the area [of San Bernardino]. It has to do with the students,” said Gomez, who plans to pursue her teaching credentials.
Last month, she and her friends assembled to support gun control awareness, and she is glad to see students take a stronger role in expanding the discussion. That day, all of her classmates paid close attention to the students speaking from the Parkland shooting.
As more students unite, she feels there is a greater possibility to impact gun control for safer schools.
“It’s good that students are now learning to speak out and be heard, not only locally, but at the state [levels] and other countries. They’re learning to speak out for their own safety and the safety of their peers,” she said.