Students take part in national walkout honoring Parkland shooting victims

Teachers were encouraged to allow students to attend the walkout.

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Students take part in national walkout honoring Parkland shooting victims

Students gathered on the Boca campus Free Speech Lawn Wednesday morning to honor the Parkland shooting victims one month later. Hope Dean | Features Editor

Students gathered on the Boca campus Free Speech Lawn Wednesday morning to honor the Parkland shooting victims one month later. Hope Dean | Features Editor

Students gathered on the Boca campus Free Speech Lawn Wednesday morning to honor the Parkland shooting victims one month later. Hope Dean | Features Editor

Students gathered on the Boca campus Free Speech Lawn Wednesday morning to honor the Parkland shooting victims one month later. Hope Dean | Features Editor

Hope Dean, Features Editor

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More than 100 FAU students formed a circle on the Free Speech Lawn Wednesday for a national school walkout to commemorate the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students killed exactly one month ago.

The 10 a.m. walkout was scheduled across the country and also served as a rally for school safety and gun reform.

After a moment of silence, the names and ages of the 17 victims were read aloud by a group of students and social work adjunct instructor Donna Drucker, who stood in the center of the circle.

Afterward, the crowd started chanting on the lawn in front of the Boca campus Social Science Building.

“Down with gun violence!” “Enough is enough!” “We are not alone!” “We’re going to beat this!” “We stand with millions of others!”

In an email to FAU teachers, Provost Gary Perry encouraged faculty to “accommodate” students who chose to take part in the demonstration.

“Please note that Florida Atlantic University stands with the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Throughout the country, these high schoolers and their supporters are fueling an incredibly important conversation regarding school safety,” Perry said. “Accordingly, I encourage you to use your discretion as an instructor to accommodate students who choose to participate in the walkout. While we have academic operations that must continue, our students deserve to have their voices heard.”

Sophomore anthropology major Stephanie Ruby attended the walkout and said the university’s proximity to Parkland made the circumstances impossible to ignore.

“Douglas, at least for around here, it made people really think because it’s so close to home … it makes it so much more real,” Ruby said.

The Parkland school shooting ignited a social conversation about gun violence and mental health; most Florida voters polled by a recent FAU College of Business survey said they want stricter gun policies.

Communications major Robert Cierro was also present at the walkout and said funding mental health resources and diminishing accessibility to firearms are essential to preventing another massacre.

“I’m a certified scuba diver, and I had to take hours worth of coursework just to do that, and I feel like it’s easier to get a gun than it is to scuba dive, which makes no sense,” Cierro said. “People talk about the American Dream and how we have the freedom to live in basically a paradise, but it’s like, how free are we if I can’t even come to this school — where I’m paying tons of fucking money — to get an education where I’m worried about someone shooting me?”

Cierro added his belief that mental health is to blame.

“I think it’s more of a mental health issue. I believe a mentally healthy person would never, ever think about going out and killing tons of people …  If we’re going to have an atmosphere where this thing can happen because you don’t want to take care of people who are mentally sick in the proper way, then we have to have gun regulation.”

Senior Madie Tolchin, a sociology major at the walkout disagreed, saying mental illness isn’t the root of mass shootings.

“I think people mistake mental illness with it being a white male problem. It’s white men who are typically doing these mass shootings. I think it’s these men [that] feel entitled and are frustrated and the shooting at Stoneman Douglas was a white nationalist, and people aren’t talking about that … He did it because of that, and even the white nationalist group … agreed. Yes, I agree, let’s have a conversation about mental health, but this isn’t what’s causing it,” Tolchin said.

She said ultimately, getting involved politically is the most important thing.

“Get out and vote. Show up in local elections. There’s an election in Boca, there’s elections coming up next November, and then we have elections in 2020 for a new president. If you care about these issues, become politically engaged,” she said. “Yes, it’s hard … it’s difficult, it’s uncomfortable, but that’s what they want us to feel. They don’t want us to get involved … the people in power.”

Hope Dean is the features editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].