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‘Stand for the victims’

Cortland, Moravia students stages walkouts for gun reform

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Cortland High School classmates, from right, Kali Boyce, Mackenzie Brackett and Alexis Crandall stand together outside the school Wednesday. The group is organizing an upcoming student walkout March 14 to advocate for gun law reform.

Kali Boyce plans to walkout of her classes on March 14 with as many of her classmates as she can get to join her — maybe 100 or more — to get Congress to pay attention to a call for gun reform legislation after the Parkland, Florida, massacre.

The Cortland High School senior has 85 students and teachers signed up already. And Cortland isn’t the only area school where a walkout is planned — Dryden and Moravia students have plans, too.

“We want Congress to pass legislation for gun control and to stand for the victims of violence in Florida because something needs to be done,” Boyce said. “We just want students’ voices to be heard.”

She is also urging students to recognize the gravity of the event, calling on them not to view it as a chance to socialize, but rather a somber event spent in silent reflection of the lives lost.

Students across America plan similar events, one month after the Feb. 14 shootings at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

The plan is for students to walkout of classes for 17 minutes, one minute for each victim, at 10 a.m. but to remain on school grounds. The walkout is part of a national movement being organized by the Women’s March Network. Boyce said she found out about it after discussing the school shooting in her journalism class.

She came upon the link to create a local walkout event through at womensmarch.com, where she saw various locations nationwide that were planning walkouts.

“I saw we didn’t have one and so I made one,” she said.

So far, Dryden, Moravia and Cortland have events for #Enough: National School Walkout listed on the website.

“We need action,” states the event details on the actionnetwork.org website. “Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.”

Boyce said she already has support from a few teachers, including one elementary school teacher who wants to bring her sixth graders to participate in the walkout.

That teacher, Kathleen Elliott-Birdsall, said she wasn’t sure of the specific plans yet, but she and her other sixth grade colleagues will participate in the movement in whatever manner the high school is.

Administrators, aware of the event, are still deciding how to react to it. Cortland City School District may embrace the walkout and incorporate it into the school day, said School Resource Officer Rob Reyngoudt, but principals and faculty are in the early stages of discussing how to handle it.

“We are still debating how to go about it, we are talking about letting them recognize the victims and having open discussions,” he said.

Dryden interim Superintendent William Locke said administrators had not yet discussed how to respond to the event so he could not comment. Nationwide, some school districts have offered support and others, like one district in Texas, punishment, for students partipating in walkouts.

Although no event has been formalized at Homer schools, yet, Superintendent Nancy Ruscio said students have discussed with administrators their plans to participate in the walkout. Administrators and school resource officers will meet next week to discuss how to handle the event.

She said Cortland’s tentative plans to embrace the event sounds like a logical approach.

“And we are going to approach it thoughtfully,” she said.

Moravia Superintendent John Birmingham could not be reached for comment.

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