Long Beach High School students were among the thousands of teenagers who walked out of their schools on March 14 as part of a national movement to honor the victims of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and to protest gun violence.
“I’m not saying I know the solution to make our environment a safer place, but I do know there needs to be more done by Congress and many others,” said Madison Gusler, a junior who organized the walkout, at the March 8 Board of Education meeting.
About 400 students left their classrooms at 10 a.m. and walked to the football field, where they stood in silence for 17 minutes in the bleachers to honor the 17 people killed in Parkland a month ago to the day.
“I’m really proud of all my peers coming out in the wind and cold to participate in the walkout, and I’m very happy for how every person conducted themselves,” Gusler said after the walkout. “Their peaceful participation was greatly appreciated and didn’t go unnoticed.”
The national school walkout movement was organized by Women’s March Youth Empower under the theme of #Enough.
“The tribute was peaceful, respectful and orderly,” Interim Schools Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Gallagher said Wednesday. “Students who did not choose to walk out remained in classes and conducted business as usual.”
At last week’s meeting, Gallagher said that she and other school officials would be in contact with Gusler and other student activists in the future to discuss how the high school could be “a school that helps our students take stands, but is neutral about what those stands are.”
School districts are prohibited by law from advocating for political positions.
“The reason I signed the school up for the walkout is because I agree with the message they have that there needs to be more action,” Gusler said at the meeting, adding that the purpose of the walkout was “to protest Congress’s inaction to do more than tweet ‘thoughts and prayers’ in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”
“Civic engagement is part of all of our responsibilities, and I feel proud of Long Beach High School for producing someone who is taking that responsibility seriously,” Gallagher said of Gusler.
Long Beach will host a sister march in solidarity with March for Our Lives on March 24 to support the nationwide student movement advocating stricter gun-control legislation. Organized by Board of Education Vice President Darlene Tangney, former City Councilwoman Fran Adelson and LBHS junior class President Fiona Eramo, the march will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. in Kennedy Plaza.
“I feel that the rest of us need to stand up behind [the students] and support them, because I truly believe they are going to be the ones to make the change in the gun-control laws,” Adelson said. “They’re engaged, they know what’s going on, and they faced the guns firsthand.”
Long Island activists and elected leaders — including U.S. Representatives Peter King and Tom Suozzi — are also expected to crowd the campus of SUNY Farmingdale on March 24 to march in solidarity with students from across the country who are protesting gun violence. The Farmingdale march is scheduled to take place at the college’s Nold Athletic Complex, at 2350 Broadhollow Road in Farmingdale, at 11 a.m.
“We are inspired by the teenagers and high school students who are standing up collectively and demanding ‘not one more,’ and we want to help them organize across Long Island and beyond,” Suozzi, a Democrat from Glen Cove, said in a statement. “This is a young people’s movement, and it’s our job as elected officials to shepherd this passion so meaningful action is taken at the congressional level to address gun violence prevention.”
In response to the Parkland shooting, legislation that was co-sponsored by State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, that would fund security technology in schools, passed in the Senate recently.
“As the parent of a preschooler, it is the sad reality that we are living in a day and age in which we fear what may happen to our children inside a classroom,” Kaminsky said in a statement. “School security is of the utmost importance, and it is imperative that we equip our schools with the funding and resources they need to purchase the latest security technology to keep our students safe.”